California’s Extreme Drought Leaves Poor Without Water

August 28, 2014 | Rural

Brett Walton reports for Circle of Blue from Monson, California,

"Just as summer in the San Joaquin Valley was reaching a full boil in June, the Colunga family lost its water and its connection to the modern world.

Like a reliable workhorse suddenly stressed beyond its limit, the family’s 70-year-old water well coughed, gasped, and, in a final dusty breath, died. For more than two months, often in 100-degree heat, Gladys and Jorge Colunga and their six children, ages six months to 16 years, have lived without running water. They are one of at least eight families in this unincorporated Tulare County community of 30-odd homes whose wells have gone dry this year.

The Colunga’s plight, coming in the midst of California’s record-setting drought, exposes a telling gap in state and local water codes – namely a failure to track and regulate groundwater use – that is diminishing the quality of life and putting the health of thousands of poor and vulnerable residents in peril.

The source of the problem is simple to explain. The domestic wells of many of the state’s rural families are no longer deep enough to reach sinking groundwater reserves. California this year is enduring the harshest of three consecutive dry years. The competition for water is fierce."

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