When wells started going dry in the unincorporated Tulare County community of East Porterville two years ago, the area became a poster child for California’s drought.
Hundreds of homes were left without water as private wells dried up because of plummeting groundwater levels. Residents, many of them low-income, relied on 300-gallon water containers on their front lawns, portable showers and cases of water delivered by volunteers.
The small community surrounded in the county known as "ground zero" for California's drought, according to the state Water Board, got international media attention. Bottled water donations poured in, but what East Porterville residents needed most was a permanent source of water. Now they’re finally getting one.
For more than a year, state and local officials have been trying to figure out a way to connect East Porterville homes to the water system in neighboring Porterville. Friday, officials began hooking up about 70 homes in the first phase of the project.
Julie Phillips, Development Manager for the City of Porterville, says it hasn’t been easy.
“I mean we’re installing infrastructure on a scale that is larger than some of our smaller valley communities,” she says. “There’s a population of nearly 7,000. It takes time to plan it.”
She says the project plans to bring city hookups to all East Porterville homes that have wells by the end of next near.
Across the state, emergency officials say about 2,000 wells remain dry.