Faucet with lock

In 2014, Rafael Surmay’s faucets stopped running. After three years of California’s record-setting drought, his well had gone dry.

He was not alone. Surmay lives in the small, rural community of East Porterville, California, and his was one of 500 wells there that dried up.

Surmay: “At the beginning, I lost a little bit of hope.”

For the first six months, his family was given a 300-gallon container that the nearby city of Porterville would fill weekly.

Surmay: “We had to manage those 300 gallons of water for one week.”

The water wasn’t good for drinking or cooking, and they had to haul it in a bucket to take baths or flush the toilet.

Surmay and his neighbors made their voices heard at city hall and at the state capitol. The state responded by providing larger tanks of water. But the community demanded a permanent solution.

Eventually, the state began connecting their homes to Porterville’s municipal water supply. Surmay’s home was connected earlier this year, and soon city water will be available to the entire community.

It solves east Porterville’s crisis. But climate change is expected to make droughts more frequent, so other communities will likely face similar struggles.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Image graphic: Created by David McCarthy.

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