East Porterville residents whose wells have gone dry in the California drought will soon get city water from neighboring Porterville under a state-funded project announced Wednesday.
The rural community became the face of the drought as front yard water tanks became the norm.
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Tulare County has been providing bottled water and fill-ups from water tankers to many residents at a cost of $500,000 per month, which the state is reimbursing.
The $10 million state project will extend city water mains into East Porterville, where about 1,800 parcels have private wells.
The state will pay hookup costs of $2,000 to $4,000 per connection for the approximately 500 homes that have dry wells.
But there’s a catch. The property owners must agree to be annexed into the city eventually.
For resident Angelica Beltran, a mother of two who lives in a mobile home she has owned for 10 years, the trade-off is worth it.
“I’m willing,” she said. “I’m really excited.”
The permanent connection to the city of Porterville is the permanent solution.
Eric Lamoureux, California Office of Emergency Services
She said her well was the first on her street to go dry a few years ago. The family got by on bottled water and a 75-gallon tank in the front yard, which was replaced by a larger tank two months ago.
“It’s been really hard,” she said. “You can’t do laundry at home. You always have to deal with rumors that the county is going to take away the water deliveries.”
Extending new water mains from Porterville is the preferred option in a draft feasibility study that is open to public comment and will be the topic of a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at Granite Hills High School in Porterville.
City officials will be on hand to answer questions about annexation, which is not currently planned and could take decades.
“There’s not going to be a massive annexation,” Porterville City Manager John Lollis said.
The California Department of Water Resources is managing the first phase of the project, with the State Water Resources Control Board handling later phases.
The state’s goal in funding the water main project is to provide safe and reliable drinking water, officials said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.
“Our hearts go out to the residents of East Porterville and elsewhere in California affected by the unprecedented drought,” said Eric Lamoureux, regional administrator for the state Office of Emergency Services. “The permanent connection to the city of Porterville is the permanent solution.”
City water service to East Porterville will begin this summer for up to 40 homes that are next to existing city water mains.
Once the feasibility plan is adopted in July, installation of new water mains in East Porterville will begin this summer and finish by the end of the year. Homes with dry wells can hook up as soon as possible, according to the state.
I think it’s the chance of a lifetime.
Mike Ennis, Tulare County supervisor
The rest of the 1,300 homes in East Porterville, where wells have nitrate contamination, can hook up by the end of 2017, the state said.
Hooking up is voluntary, but the yard tanks will be removed and water delivery service ended once hookups are available.
Tulare County Supervisor Mike Ennis, whose district includes the area, said both the county and East Porterville residents are getting a good deal.
“I think it’s the chance of a lifetime,” Ennis said. “We’d never be able to get the state to put the infrastructure in the ground and hook people up.”
He said the state responded because “they figure we’re at ground zero for the drought. They got tired of reporters from all over the world coming there.”
It’s been really hard. You can’t do laundry at home.
Angelica Beltran, East Porterville resident
The state said it would put in $5 million right away and another $5 million later to handle the emergency, but Ennis said the total cost of getting city water to all East Porterville homes will be more.
The details of where that extra money would come from and how much homeowners would pay have yet to be decided, he said.