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Gov. Jerry Brown on his plan to ease California's water woes

US President Barack Obama (2nd-L) walks with California Governor Jerry Brown (L), Joe and Maria Del Bosque (R) of Empresas Del Bosque farm, addressing California's drought situation Friday, Feburary 14, 2014 in Los Banos, CA.
US President Barack Obama (2nd-L) walks with California Governor Jerry Brown (L), Joe and Maria Del Bosque (R) of Empresas Del Bosque farm, addressing California's drought situation Friday, Feburary 14, 2014 in Los Banos, CA.
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California Governor Jerry Brown announced his emergency drought legislation earlier this week, a total of $687 million  in relief aid.

The money is expected to help California get through this current water crisis and better prepare the state for the future.  $549 million of that package will go to local conservation projects.

Gov. Brown joins the show to discuss the state's drought situation, what he and President Obama discussed during his visit, and how he plans to address the issue. 

Interview Transcript:

New drought plan includes funding for local water conservation. What kind of projects are you envisioning?

"Well, projects to recycle water, programs that will enable people to conserve in different ways. There's just a whole bunch of different ways to use water better. That's something we leave up to the local communities since we can't figure it all out in headquarters, we do have bond funds and then we distribute them and on top of everything else we're going to be promoting through public communications in spots about the importance of using water very, very carefully." 

Would you consider implementing mandatory conservation?

"Sure, but it is happening in certain localities, particularly the north, communities are embracing mandatory rationing, but to issue a command that would cover all 38.5 million people that's more chancy and we go about it carefully, but as far as water goes every local water district, every local community is the best judge of where they are so there's nothing that stops the local community from taking steps. Overall for the whole state of California, by the nature of that kind of broad challenge are moving very, very deliberately." 

There's also concern about water storage, not mention in your plan. Do you intend to introduce some plans for water storage to help us get through this drought and future ones?

"Sure. Well water storage, by the way, is not a new topic. That's been talk about when my father was governor, then Ronald Reagan actually stopped the dam and I tried to propose some storage facilities and the voters in referendum turned that down. Then the next couple of governors didn't do anything. They kept quiet. Davis didn't do much and then Arnold started talking about things and got a bond, but it never went anywhere so here we are.

"Obviously building a dam or a storage facility is not as easy as you might think so we are definitely considering storage, both under the ground and above the ground and we're looking at a bond issue. Unfortunate, the size of the current bond issue doesn't appear very popular and it wouldn't have much chance at being passed. So we're at the drawing boards looking to see what we can do." 

Whenever you talk about water, there's always politics. How do we get beyond these politics?

"Well, when you say we need, Sacramento is full of needs. That doesn't mean that you can satisfy them. The reason for that is in a democratic society divided by region, by party, by ideology, getting the majority or in some cases you need a two-third majority is not easy, but I am working to develop a reliable conveyance system of the Delta.

"We are now funding and promoting water recycling, but we can much, much further. There's a certain amount of it, but they've got great potential. In the storage area, that's something that's not going to be done during this drought. If we started tomorrow, it would many years so we're putting the pieces together, but remember since the days of Patt Brown no big water projects have been undertaken." 

Meanwhile, millions of people have moved to California...

"Well, I think the thing that people ought to reflect on is that there have been people in California for the last 10 to 12 thousand years. That number, up until a couple hundred years ago, never exceeded a few hundred-thousand, maybe a million. Now we're at over 38 million and there's 32 million vehicles going 332 billion miles a year using petroleum so we're in a very extended, over extended situation here and how I've maneuvered and bring people along a path of sustainability and prudence, that something we'll have a lot chance to talk about over the next several days and months." 

Another key factor is ground water. Former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed any legislation that would have established more regulation of ground water supply. Do you intend to push for more oversight?

"Yes, definitely, but as you said this previous governor vetoed it and there's a lot of opposition by farmers because the water under their ground, they feel is theirs. If they want to put a well down, who's to say no? So if and when we put a more regulatory regime in place, we would have had to overcome a lot of property owner-type feeling, but as the drought becomes more real, more damaging, we'll get there." 

What are you doing in your own life and at home to use less water?

"Well, I'll tell you. According to our latest water bill, my wife and I are using about 35 gallons a day. That's low by California standards." 

Are there points for you when you feel, "I know I should be doing this.."

"That's a good question. How often do you not want to flush your toilet. I would say that's personal questions and it's challenging, but there are reasons to be very careful in each of the major uses of water. For example, we don't wash dishes with a third of the dishwasher full, wait until it gets full. We don't water outside because we're on hillside, we don't normally have to do that, but there are plants that would probably like a little water. So we're cutting back and adhering to a rather tight regime, but as we go forward things will probably tighten up." 

You have raised millions of dollars. There is a Brown for governor office in Oakland and yet officially speaking you haven't formally announced you'll be running for office again. Any sense of if and when you'll do something like that?

"Well, we still have a little more time for that decision and I think the law gives until March for candidates to make their decision public." 

So you're still thinking it over?

"I'm always mulling these matters."