The Central Valley farming county has the highest number of dry wells in California.
Nearly 18 months ago, the well that supplies the home of Guillermina Andrade and Vicente Tapia with running water went dry. Ever since, the couple from East Porterville in Tulare County, California, fetches water as a regular chore. Twice a week, they fill five 208-liter (55-gallon) barrels at a depot in town, load the barrels on the back of a pickup truck, and drive home. They cannot drink this water. It is only for bathing, flushing toilets, and washing dishes.
Tulare County is the center of California’s drinking water crisis. Polluted with farm fertilizer, the groundwater that so many rural residents rely on is now running out.
California officials counted 1,908 dry wells in the state as of June 18. Seven out of 10 dry wells are in Tulare County, and four out of 10 are in a single town, East Porterville. County officials expect even more wells to go dry this summer. The water table is already low, and little moisture soaked into the ground during a historically dry winter.
Residents, many of whom are farm workers, are frustrated and exhausted. They worry about their children developing back problems from carrying water. They want solutions.
J. Carl Ganter is co-founder and director of Circle of Blue, the internationally recognized center for original frontline reporting, research, and analysis on resource issues with a focus on the intersection between water, food, and energy.