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State money arrives to start a new water system in a drought-stricken Valley town

After her well went dry in the tiny Tulare County town of Monson, Maria Jimenez started using bottled water. This photo was taken in September 2015.
After her well went dry in the tiny Tulare County town of Monson, Maria Jimenez started using bottled water. This photo was taken in September 2015. jwalker@fresnobee.com

The State Water Resources Control Board has authorized giving $1.21 million to Tulare County to help build a new water system in Monson, the tiny town where wells went dry during the California drought and the water has high levels of nitrates.

The county now has $2.1 million for its Monson emergency water supply project to drill a new well and start the first phase of a distribution system to about 30 homes.

Two years ago, the county received $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Agiculture’s Emergency Community Water Assistance program and $400,000 from the California Department of Water Resources.

Monson, population 188, is where homes are on individual wells. The town has been hammered by drinking-water problems. Homes have water tanks in the front yards for showers and flushing, and residents use bottled water for drinking and cooking. Both programs are state-funded.

“This is great news for the residents of Monson who have endured water-quality issues for years, even before recent drought impacts reduced groundwater supplies,” said Tulare County Supervisor Steve Worthley of Dinuba, who represents the area.

Traditionally, communities where homes have their own wells have not been eligible for grants, but the drought caused governmental agencies to come up with innovative drought-funding programs, officials said.

“What broke the logjam was the state was on the hook for the tanks and the bottled water,” said Denise England, deputy county administrative officer.

Construction should start this spring and finish in six months.

“This is fantastic news,” said Ryan Jensen, community water solutions manager at Community Water Center, an environmental justice advocacy group in Visalia and Sacramento. “It’s important to note that it’s taken a really long time.”

A proposed second phase, still unfunded, would connect Monson’s water system to Sultana about 3 miles away.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold

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