Farmworkers, governor demand drought relief

SACRAMENTO — Chanting "agua, agua, agua," busloads of farmworkers joined Valley politicians at the Capitol today to demand that lawmakers spend state money on dams and canals to ease a growing water crisis.

Gov. Schwarzenegger wants $9.3 billion for water supply and conservation projects. But the proposed bond has gotten a lukewarm response from Democratic leaders who say lawmakers should focus on negotiating a state budget, now 23 days late.

Today's rally, organized by a farm labor contractor, was designed to give a human face to the state's water woes. Farmworkers, most from the Valley's parched west side, carried homemade signs declaring "agua es vida" -- water is life -- and "agua = trabajo" -- water equals work.

The drought and court-ordered pumping cutbacks have forced some growers to abandon crops and lay off workers. Total farm losses statewide reached $245 million as of July 11, according to state figures.