The only functioning well in the rural community of Teviston ruptured in early June, leaving more than 700 residents without running water.
This story was originally published by CalMatters.
This is how the water crisis in California is unfolding these days: The only functioning well in the rural community of Teviston ruptured in early June, leaving more than 700 residents without running water as temperatures in the central valley soared to triple digits during a drought.
“It’s day to day” for the people of Teviston, said Frank Galaviz, member of the Teviston Community Services District board of directors, in an interview with The Fresno Bee.
Residents of Teviston depend on a limited amount of bottled water for their needs such as staying hydrated, cooking, bathing and flushing the toilet. Some locals, like Galaviz, travel to nearby towns to stay with family or friends to shower and wash their clothes.
Galaviz shared the news of the well failure during a virtual drought conference hosted by Senator Melissa Hurtado, a Democrat from Sanger. The district found sand in the pump, which led to the outage.
In response to the well’s failure, the district is delivering cases of bottled water and five-gallon jugs to its residents. Water tankers haul water from Porterville, 23 miles away, to fill Teviston’s two water storage tanks.
“It’s barely enough, and in some cases, not enough,” Galaviz said. “Some families are bigger than others.
Teviston is an unincorporated community in Tulare County that sits off of Highway 99, between Pixley and Earlimart. The first residents of the community were mainly black migrants from the Cotton Belt and Dust Belt states. Today, the majority of its inhabitants are Latino farm laborers.
It can take weeks to collect running water from households in Teviston, said Galaviz, who is waiting for the parts needed to repair the pump.
But repairing the pump may not solve the problem. Galaviz said he was concerned the well had dried up.
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Lack of water is nothing new
Residents experienced similar shortages when the community’s only well collapsed in November 2017. Like many rural communities in the Central Valley, Teviston did not have a functioning relief well.
Four years later, that is still not the case.
“During the last drought, we learned that local and state responses to drought were not coordinated. Families in distress didn’t know who to call and the state was scrambling to provide support, ”Community Water Center policy advocate Erick Orellana said in an email to The Bee. “We don’t want emergencies to keep happening, so we urge the state to be better prepared for the drought this time around.”
In 2017, Teviston received state funding for emergency response and partnered with nearby Pixley for water. One solution suggested by Galaviz is to incorporate Teviston into Pixley to access their water system.
A bill is being passed by the state legislature – Senate Bill 403 – that would allow the National Water Board to strengthen communities at risk of losing access to a water supply. clean and safe drinking water, especially disadvantaged communities that depend on at-risk wells.
Right now, the agency is building a new, modern well for Teviston, Well 4, which Galaviz says will be completed by 2022 or 2023. “We need the State Water Board to accelerate our funding. for well 4, “he said. said at the conference.
Thousands of wells in the San Joaquin Valley are at risk of drying up this summer, which will have a disproportionate impact on Latino residents who are more likely to depend on private wells. In addition, a recent analysis of the drought in the state indicated that low-income Latinos have been hit hardest by the latest drought, especially in rural worker-farm communities.
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Disadvantaged communities hardest hit
“Rural Californians in the Central Valley face inequalities in water, energy and health,” Hurtado said after a virtual conference call. The leaders of Avenal and Lamont also discussed their challenges related to water scarcity, aging hydraulic infrastructure and financing needs.
Scott Taylor, general manager of the Lamont Utilities District, said his Kern County community of 20,000 people, mostly Latino farm laborers, has seven wells. Five of them are contaminated with the carcinogenic carcinogen 123-trichloropropane (TCP), and one is not functional. Taylor said he needed better infrastructure for his aging wells to serve Lamont’s “critically disadvantaged residents”.
Public funds are available to improve drinking water infrastructure. The State Water Resources Control Board has up to $ 130 million to use each year through 2030 to “close funding gaps and provide solutions to water supply systems, especially those serving disadvantaged communities.” through the Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) program. , according to the council’s website.
“State partner agencies, like the State Water Resources Control Board, stand ready to help local agencies and counties deal with these emergencies while also working to find long-term solutions. term for communities like Teviston through its existing assistance programs, ”said Darrin Polhemus, deputy. director of the board’s drinking water division, in an emailed statement to The Bee.
The drinking water crisis in California
“Local agencies and counties need to prepare now for how they will manage any future emergency response to an immediate drinking water crisis and what resources they will use to meet immediate needs while the state’s resources can be uploaded to support, ”Polhemus said.
Both Galaviz and Taylor said they encountered bureaucratic delays when working with the State Water Board. “The truth is, not only does the water not flow, but neither does the funding,” Taylor said. “Especially for small agencies like mine, like the others, no funding is no water.”
In May, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed $ 5.1 billion for drought preparedness, infrastructure and response. $ 1.3 billion of this funding would go to drinking water and wastewater treatment infrastructure, particularly for small, low-income communities. According to Orellana, the governor’s proposed investments are “a huge step forward in tackling the more than $ 4 billion needed over the next five years alone to tackle failing and risky water systems across the country. California “.
For rural residents of the central valley and river basin districts, the money cannot come soon enough.
“We know how difficult it is in the Central Valley to be without water, having to deal with over 100 degrees, and many of these families also have to deal with power outages and swamp coolers.” , Hurtado said. “Sometimes we have the impression that we are not being listened to; we don’t make ourselves heard.
This article is part of Californian division, a collaboration between writers examining income inequality and economic survival in California. CALmatters.org is a non-profit, non-partisan media company explaining the politics and politics of California.
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