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Dangers of Large-Scale Farming – 7,000 People Without Running Water

Touch the Soil News # 181

The standard economic plan – for centuries – has been one of producing something to sell focusing on the financial cost and not the environmental cost.

After decades of intensive farming in California’s Central Valley, a different realization has come home to roost. The area’s water was being exported in the form of food. For decades, the area has depended upon taking more water out of the ground that was being replenished in order to sustain agricultural production. The California drought just escalated the speed at which groundwater was withdrawn in excess of replenishment.

The community of East Porterville in Tulare County, California is right in the middle of intensive agriculture. Unlike most American communities, East Porterville does not have a public water system. Resident’s rely on wells vying for the same water as the farmers. The problem is water levels have not only dropped, but are gone and wells are now dry.

Without waterat home, personal hygiene has become a public activity as folks us public showers and sinks

Mother Jones journalist Julia Lurie recently visited the town and had a scary tale to tell. East Porterville is considered “ground zero” when it comes to the California drought. East Porterville is home to the pickers and packers of the fruits, veggies and nuts grown in the area. For the 7,000 people in the area without running water, they can’t cook, shower or flush the toilet.

The County of Tulare delivers ½ gallon of water to each resident every day. The county installed a Drought Resource Center that hosts portable showers for residents. Tanks of non-potable water sit outside the fire station for the public to come and get for things like laundry and bathing. The county is installing large plastic tanks to homes without water. So far 320 have been installed, but 1,300 homes are still dry.

Residents of East Porterville explain that performing daily tasks without water is challenging, but the sentimental losses of favorite trees that died and pets that had to be let go are the most painful. Now there are no lawns, flowers or food gardens.

Following is a short video clip on conditions in East Porterville:

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