Still no running water for Tulare County elderly couple

Posted by Mark Grossi on May 19, 2014 

The Almanzas still don't have running water in their rural Tulare County home where their well went dry in early April.

Al Almanza, who suffers crippling arthritis and heart problems, will turn 80 next week. His wife, Carmen, will be 80 in July, and she continues hauling buckets of water to flush the toilet and wash dishes.

I wrote a story a story early this month explaining how the Almanzas, who live near Porterville, have fallen through the cracks in the public assistance safety net during this intense dry season.

Their small income covers house payments, but it's too low to qualify for a federal loan and frustratingly too high for a grant.

Most of California's $687 million drought-relief money comes from bonds, which authorities say cannot be given to individual residents.

Maria Herrera of the advocacy group Community Water Center in Visalia emailed this week to say she has a list of 15 people whose private wells have gone dry.

The key is that these private wells are not part of any water system, so they don't qualify for the state help. Federal funding is tricky, too, as the Almanzas learned.

"Things haven't changed for us yet," Carmen said on Monday. "We can't go through the summer like this."

The Almanzas shower at a granddaughter's house. They eat on paper plates as much as possible to cut down on dish washing.

They've lived in their home for 33 years, raising seven children. Al worked as a gardener and landscaper until his health failed in his early 70s.

They told me they do not want to leave their home and move in with relatives. They say they love their home.

"We just need a little help to fix our well," Carmen said.

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