Jul 5, 2017

The California Drought Isn’t Over, It Just Went Underground

East Porterville, CA
USA
by
Mark Grossi
,
Water Deeply
Homeowner Leonicio Ramirez and daughter Tania Ramirez are the first residents to receive water through a water distribution system in East Porterville, California, on Aug. 19, 2016. Engineers at the California Department of Water Resources designed a system to deliver water from the city of Porterville to 1,800 homes in its neighboring community to the east. Photo: Florence Low, California Department of Water Resources
Homeowner Leonicio Ramirez and daughter Tania Ramirez are the first residents to receive water through a water distribution system in East Porterville, California, on Aug. 19, 2016. Engineers at the California Department of Water Resources designed a system to deliver water from the city of Porterville to 1,800 homes in its neighboring community to the east. Photo: Florence Low, California Department of Water Resources

Evelyn Rios wept in 2014 when the well went dry at her home of 46 years – the home where she and husband Joe raised five children on farm-worker wages. They cannot afford another well, so they do without. Her angst only grew as California’s five-year drought dragged on.

Finally, after one of the wettest winters on record, Gov. Jerry Brown announced in April that the drought had ended. But situation remains grim, says Rios, 80, who lives in rural Madera County in California’s San Joaquin Valley. She thought she was being hooked up to the city of Madera’s water system. Now the emergency money for such projects has dried up.

“So, the drought is over?” she asks. “What about us? What about the plans to hook up to Madera’s water? How long will we have to wait now? The drought might be over for you, but it isn’t over for me.”

Full reservoirs and swollen rivers don’t mean that much to people living in rural San Joaquin Valley, where about 1,000 people still have dry wells. Their water sits underground in the nation’s second-largest groundwater aquifer, which was mined and dramatically drawn down by farmers protecting the valley’s $40 billion-a-year agriculture industry.