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House of Representatives approves California water bill

The Obama administration has threatened to veto the measure

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The House of Representatives passed Republican-led legislation today that will bring more water to the most drought-plagued areas of California. Citing environmental concerns and other problems, the White House has threatened to veto the bill.

Passed in a 245-176 vote, the bill will mandate that more water be taken out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta before it reaches the ocean, the Associated Press reports. The bill also includes measures that are aimed at speeding up studies for new and expanded dams.

Other communities will run out of water, critics say

Similar legislation failed during the last two Congressional sessions. Critics of the bill — mostly Democrats — say that diverting the water to farms will only spread the problem around. Other communities will run out of water as a result, and the action will harm the salmon fishing industry, they argue. Supporters of the bill, on the other hand, say that the drought poses a threat to the country's food supply. And in fact, the legislation will make it harder for federal officials to reduce water volumes in the future by asking them to prove that fish species will go extinct otherwise.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration threatened to veto the bill if it makes it through the Senate. "Like similar legislation in the last Congress, [the legislation] was developed with little input from the public, the administration, or key stakeholders affected by the drought," the White House said. "The urgency and seriousness of the California drought requires a balanced and flexible approach that promotes water reliability and ecosystem restoration."