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Drought: Rationing Is Rough In Central California Town Without Water

TULARE COUNTY (CBS) -- California's four year drought has the whole state in a water crisis, but no area has been harder hit than the state's Central Valley, where the wells have run dry.

In the small town of Okieville, in Tulare County, residents are struggling to stay in their homes.

At Myra Marquez's house, she checks the gauge on her 2500 gallon water tank before she touches a faucet. The tank gets filled every Monday.

Rationing 2000 gallons over five or six days is tough.

"It's hard," she said.

The 2000-gallon water tank outside Myra Marquez's home. (CBS)

It's become the way of life in Okieville, which has about 90 residents. The town was named after the people who migrated there in the 1930s during the Dust Bowl.

Homes like Marquez's are stacked with boxes of drinking water, and trucks haul in more to fill tanks, funded by the state's Emergency Drought Relief Program.

"So without this (tank), you know, we can't take a shower. We can't wash clothes. We can't do anything without it," says Marquez.

In Tulare County, nearly 1700 household wells are dry. That's more than all other counties combined.

Gilbert Arrendondo ran a pipe three blocks to tap into a neighbor's well when his dried up last year.

"I've never seen this happen before because they would drill down and find a way to help us out," said Arrendondo.

He says drilling a new well would cost $30,000, so he may be forced to leave his home of 30 years.

"I've got no choice but move cause we need water," he says.

"I mean this is where we grew up," says Marquez. "How are we going to just leave it and leave everything behind you know?"

The people who live here know these tanks are only a temporary solution. They're pushing the government to build a community well.

It takes $38 million dollars from the state's Emergency Drought Relief Program to pay for the town's drinking water and fill residents' water tanks.

Only homeowners can lease water tanks, though. Others have to rig hoses to a neighbor's home and share from their water ration.

More federal help may be on the way.

The California Emergency Drought Relief Act is making its way through Congress. The bill was introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. If passed, it would provide federal money to help communities like Okieville deal with the drought, and give the state the means to combat future droughts by funding desalination projects, new reservoirs and programs for fish and wildlife protection.


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