LOS ANGELES - California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed into law a $687 million drought-relief package to deal with a water shortage that he has called the worst in the state's modern history.
"This legislation marks a crucial step - but Californians must continue to take every action possible to conserve water," Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement.
The largest share of the drought relief package - $549 million - comes from accelerated spending of bond money that voters previously approved in two ballot propositions.
Those measures will fund storm-water recapturing, expanded use of recycled water, better management of groundwater storage, and stronger water conservation measures.
The legislation also has a program to deal with contaminants that become more concentrated in groundwater when less water is available to dilute them.
In addition, the legislation appropriates $25.3 million in food assistance and $21 million in housing assistance to people affected by the drought, such as farm workers who have lost employment in bone-dry agricultural fields.
While much of the United States has been pummeled by a series of snow storms, California in recent months has struggled with a drought that threatens to inflict the worst water crisis in recorded state history.
California grows half the nation's fruits and vegetables and is the top state by value of agricultural goods produced. Large-scale crop losses in the state could lead to higher consumer prices, especially for tree and vine produce grown only here.
A large winter storm soaked many parts of the state on Friday and Saturday, but officials said the precipitation would be too little to offset the drought.
"Obviously this rain helps, but we need a lot more to get caught up," said Carol Smith, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard just northwest of Los Angeles.