CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
California’s extreme drought has dried up tap water supplies for hundreds of people living in rural San Joaquin Valley homes.
At least 182 of the 1,400 homes in East Porterville, California have no water or are having “some kind of water issue,” the Porterville Recorder reports. The state’s drought, which is in its third year, has dried up some of these residents’ wells, forcing the county to deliver emergency supplies of water. The wells rely on the Tule River for water, but due to the drought, river flows have plummeted this year.
Tulare County Office of Emergency Services delivered 12-gallon-per person rations of bottled water to affected residents Friday, and the county has also provided a 5,000-gallon, non-potable water tank for people to use for bathing and flushing.
But the bottled water rations are only supposed to last three weeks, Emergency services manager Andrew Lockman told the AP — after that, low-income residents will need to sign up for a grant program in order to keep receiving water, and the county is asking local companies to make bottled water donations.
“Right now we’re trying to provide immediate relief,” Lockman said. “This is conceived as an emergency plan right now.”
Angelica Gallegos, who lives in East Porterville and works at a packing shed, told the Fresno Bee that her household’s well has been dry for four months. She has three children, and has been relying on the nonpotable water tank, as well as trips to her brother’s house nearby, for showering.
“It’s hard,” she told the Fresno Bee. “I can’t shower the children like I used to.”
Having a private well — which is the norm in East Porterville — means that homeowners are often responsible for the costs of fixing or drilling a new well if water problems emerge. That’s difficult for many residents in Tulare County, a place dubbed California’s “welfare capital” by the LA Times in 2011, due to its high poverty rates. One couple in the county was told in July that re-drilling their dry well would cost them about $15,000 — a price the couple, who are both retired, can’t afford.
Tulare County has also struggled with water contamination in the past. Earlier this week, Tulare County received approval for a $1 million grant that will provide free bottled water to children in schools and childcare facilities that have reported water contamination issues, including contamination by nitrates and arsenic. The Visalia Times-Delta reports that residents have been speaking to county and state officials about their water contamination problems for more than 20 years.
Still, this current water situation is more dire than some residents have seen before.
“I grew up here. I’ve never seen this many people out of water,” Tulare County District Five Supervisor Mike Ennis told the Fresno Bee.
Tulare County is among the 58 percent of California that’s in the U.S. Drought monitor’s most extreme category of drought. Right now, 100 percent of the state is experiencing “severe” to “exceptional” drought, dry weather that has driven reservoirs to “seriously low” levels and has taken its toll on multiple industries in the state, including farming and honey production.