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The mega-drought has deprived some California residents of what most Americans take for granted: running water in their homes.
The situation has gotten so bad that the Red Cross and county authorities are distributing bottles of drinking water to 960 residents in the town of East Porterville in the San Joaquin Valley after local wells went dry. About 300 homes are impacted.
“It’s hard,” resident Angelica Gallegos told The Fresno Bee. “I can’t shower the children like I used to.”
Gallegos and her neighbors now rely on 12 one-gallon bottles of water distributed by Tulare County for drinking water. For baths and toilets they use non-drinkable water from a storage tank in front of the local firehouse. The fire department tanker drives to the nearby town of Porterville to get that water from a fire hydrant.
Many residents of East Porterville, an unincorporated community northeast of Bakersfield, rely on 25- to 50-foot deep wells for water. The wells started running dry in February and by June local charities were distributing bottled water to the community’s poor. The wells are usually replenished by the Tule River groundwater – but the river also has run dry.
“Every time I turn it on, I don’t know if it’ll work,” resident Fonetta Kipper said of the water in her home. Kipper let her lawn die in an attempt to preserve her well.
Tulare County Emergency Services Manager Andrew Lockman said “calls started coming in” during February from desperate people needing water.
“By June, it was a fire hose,” he said.
The county has already spent $30,000 buying bottled water for East Porterville residents. Much of the water that is still available in East Porterville is contaminated with nitrates and is unsafe to drink.
Drought Increasing Size of Mountains?
The situation in the region could affect the entire country because East Porterville is in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, where a large percentage of the nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown.
(Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s in-depth report on the California mega-drought here .)
Food and water wells are not the only thing the drought is impacting. A group of scientists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego discovered that the drought has caused the ground in California to rise by around 4 millimeters (half an inch). The ground is rising because the weight of water  typically weighs it down.
The effects of that phenomenon are unclear, but it could lead to landslides and other problems. There is also a slight chance the effect could cause earthquakes.
“This will change the stress on faults, but by an amount that’s really small,” University of California Geophysics professor Duncan Agnew told Popular Science.
The same researchers came up with staggering figures about the scale of the drought: The western US is now short 62 trillion gallons of water, Agnew told Popular Science.
“If you had a volume of water the size of the western US that was 10 centimeters thick, that’s how much water has been removed,” Agnew said.
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