For the past month, Frank Galaviz has been wondering when running water will return to his town.
The 77-year-old resident of Teviston – a small rural community in central California – has been forced to rely on stored and bottled water after the failure of the pump for the city’s only working well in early June. Since then, residents have had to travel to nearby towns for showering or depend on the town’s water tanks for their daily needs.
Temperatures continue to hit triple digits as a brutal heat wave sweeps the west coast. The ongoing drought only exacerbates the problem, Galaviz says.
“[My wife and I] have experienced many challenges, ”he says. “We both survived cancer, but we can’t survive without water. This is a problem that is not going to go away. “
Teviston sits between the towns of Fresno and Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley and is primarily home to Latino farm laborers. Normal days in the city are generally slow and idyllic, says Galaviz, with many residents traveling to nearby towns on business. Now they are going to get more water.
This is not the first time that Galaviz or his neighbors have struggled with a broken well. He says two more wells had broken down in previous years and had not been repaired. A new, more modern well is under construction, but Galaviz estimates its completion is still a few years away.
The community continues to wait for the arrival of spare parts in hopes of repairing the current well pump, he added, a process that could take a few weeks.
“It’s not normal not to be able to flush the toilet,” he says. “It’s not normal not to be able to take a shower.”
Residents were able to find a temporary solution, using their water tanks to provide relief.
“We were able to recover some of the water pressure,” said Galaviz. “We put a submersible pump in one of our old wells and we are forcing the water from the storage tanks through that system. But it is not a permanent solution.”
Rural Latino communities in California have been particularly vulnerable to drought conditions, according to a report from the state legislative analyst’s office.
“Not having water equals poor health,” said State Senator Melissa Hurtado, who serves California’s 14th District. Weekend edition. Hurtado says his bill, SB 559, would allocate $ 785 million finance and repair water supply infrastructure. One of the waterways laid for repair is the Friant-Kern Canal, which supplies Teviston and the towns around it. Over the years, the canal has become prone to subsidence – a condition that caused parts of the canal to leak and means that it cannot supply that much water.
“SB 559 would help repair the canal so that the basin and the communities that depend on the water here can have more access to it,” Hurtado said.
Galaviz has spent the past few weeks knocking on doors checking on neighbors and trying to organize help.
“I have a neighbor whose daughter has medical problems. She needs clean water, clean water, ”he says. “It hurts to see people in pain.”
Hafsa Fathima and Jan Johnson produced and edited the audio story.