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CALIFORNIA DROUGHT: Thousands Without Running Water

Angelica Gallegos of Porterville, Calif. Image source: NYTimes

Angelica Gallegos of Porterville, Calif. Image source: NYTimes

East Porterville, California, has become the first community in the nation to lose something most Americans take for granted – running water. Wells at around 1,000 of the 1,200 homes in the Central Valley community have gone dry because of the ongoing mega-drought in the Golden State.

“Water, water, water, water. I never thought about it before. Now I don’t think about anything else,” East Porterville resident Paula Garcia told The Washington Post.

Garcia has to fill her toilet with a bucket, eat off of paper plates, wash her hands with hand sanitizer and give her children sponge bathes because there is no water in her home.

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It would cost $40,000 to drill a new well, something they can’t afford. To make matters worse, she and her husband, Miguel Gamboa, cannot sell the house because of the situation.

“Who’s going to buy a house without water?” Gamboa asked.

5,433 People without Running Water

Gamboa and Garcia are far from alone; an estimated 5,433 people in Tulare County where East Porterville is located lack running water, according to Mother Jones. Around 1,006 homes in the county are now receiving free bottled deliveries from the county government. A large body of water, ironically called Lake Success, is five miles away, but it is running low, too.

CBS Sacramento predicts the drought could “wipe entire towns off of the map” if it does not end soon.

“Some folks there [are] living in Third World conditions,” reporter Nick James of CBS Sacramento said of East Porterville, which he described as California’s ground zero for the drought.

Some East Porterville residents have been receiving bottled water deliveries for a year as the situation has gotten worse. Last year Off Grid News reported that 960 residents were receiving bottled water and 300 homes were impacted. Now, around 1,000 homes — most of the community — have no water.

“It’s dire, it’s dire here, it’s dire straits,” resident Antonio Alvarez told CBS Sacramento.

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The water table has fallen and there is no public water system in the community. Most of the homes had wells 25 to 30 feet deep, which was adequate until the mega-drought struck. Farmers are pumping the aquifer dry to irrigate their crops.

One Half Gallon a Day

Each resident is allocated one-half gallon of drinking water a day from bottled water delivered every two weeks. Tulare County has also set up three large tanks of non-potable water that people cannot drink. Residents can use that water for taking showers, flushing toilets, running the washing machine and doing the dishes.

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Many residents now bathe in portable sinks and showers that have been set up in front of a local church. Even families that have washing machines now have to use the local laundromat.

Another facet of life that most Americans take for granted has also disappeared from East Porterville: lawns and gardens. Gamboa let his lawn die and pulled up his flower bed. The family’s dream of growing their own food died, too. Before the drought, Gamboa and Garcia had plans to grow flowers, peach trees, watermelons, plums and avocados on their property. Now, they grow dust.

Economic Devastation

The drought has devastated the Central Valley, with 15,000 jobs and $2 billion in revenue vanishing, The Post said.

Jobs are so scarce in the town that many families rely on free food handed out by a local church.

Residents are worried that many of the farm towns in the Central Valley could soon become ghost towns, as residents simply pack up and leave.

Do you believe America is prepared for a long-term drought in California and its impact? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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