It’s no secret California is in a severe, prolonged drought… a Waterless California. Everyone knows that there are new water restrictions taking place constantly, wildfires raging up and down the state, farmers without crops and livestock and much, much more. But even for residents, the drought feels like a minor nag. The produce got a little pricier, our lawns a little drier and the air a little dustier. But the truth isn’t that there’s a little bit of a drought, the truth is that there are now roughly 5,400 people living without running water.
Yes, you read that right – 5,400 people without running water. This means that when they turn the faucet on, nothing comes out. These people, living in Tulare County, have typically lived off of groundwater by private wells. Tulare County isn’t connected to a public water system partly due to location and partly due to its incorporation in the 1970’s when there already wasn’t enough surface water to share. Nearly all of the 1,200 waterless homes have signed up for a free bottled water delivery service offered by the county. With deliveries every two weeks, individuals are rationed about a half-gallon of drinking water per day. This is truly a Waterless California.
Unfortunately, water isn’t only used for drinking. Because of this, Tulare County has set up three large tanks of unpotable water. Here, residents can collect water for things like washing dishes, flushing toilets and showering. Portable sinks, toilets and showers have been set up in front of a local church for residents to use should they need more water than the rationed relief can provide.
It’s 2015 and California residents are living without running water and facing many of the same health hazards as third-world countries. Major hygiene concerns need to be addressed and locals fear that help from the county is coming too late. Tulare County is working on installing water shortage tanks outside of the 1,200 homes with dry wells. As of today, roughly 170 of these tanks have been installed and the majority of these residents have been living without running water for over a year now.
The drought in California is about more than just the cost of avocados, it’s about the livelihood of millions of people. Without running water, people are losing more than just their farms, lakes and oceans. They are losing their dignity and their health. Water conservation and efficiency is important to prevent these disasters, and a little bit of education could have taken Tulare County a long way.