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Obama contends entire country concerned about Calif. drought

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POSTED February 15, 2014 1:12 a.m.

FIREBAUGH (AP) — Conveying the concern of the entire nation, President Barack Obama said Friday the U.S. will have to make difficult choices about how it uses and conserves water as he paid a visit to drought-stricken California.

No longer can the U.S. afford to think about water as a competition between the nation’s agricultural and urban areas, Obama said. With overall water resources expected to diminish significantly in the future, he said, the country must find better ways to cooperate.

“The truth of the matter is that this is going to be a very challenging situation this year, and frankly, the trend lines are such where it’s going to be a challenging situation for some time to come,” Obama said while meeting with community leaders in Firebaugh, a rural area not far from Fresno.

California is in the midst of its worst drought in more than 100 years. After arriving here Friday afternoon, Obama was to meet with area farmers and announce more than $160 million in federal financial aid, including $100 million in the farm bill he signed into law last week for programs that cover the loss of livestock.

The overall package includes smaller amounts to aid in the most extreme drought areas and to help food banks that serve families affected by the water shortage. Obama also will call on federal facilities in California to immediately limit water consumption.

The president also was announcing that the budget he’ll send to Congress next month will include $1 billion for a proposed “climate resilience fund” to invest in research and pay for new technologies to help communities deal with the impact of climate change. The proposal is likely to face stiff resistance from lawmakers wary of new spending and divided on the subject of global warming.

Obama drew a connection between the water issues California is facing and the broader impact he said climate change is having around the country, pointing to hurricanes along the Atlantic and coastal erosion. He said the entire nation is concerned about the drought because of California’s enormous economic output.

“We are going to stay on top of this because it has national implications,” Obama said.

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