This week, I visited the small town of Cameron Creek Colony in Tulare County, California and saw firsthand the challenges drought poses, particularly for those living in rural communities.
About 10 percent of Cameron Creek Colony residents have no access to water because their wells have run dry. Still others have only intermittent access to water. Many are in danger of losing access to water permanently in the near future. One long-time resident told me that until this drought, she’d never worried about water. Now, worrying about having enough water is constantly on her mind.
Fortunately, USDA is able to help this community, and 73,000 residents living in other communities across California, through $9.7 million in grants to help other rural California communities that have experienced a significant decline in the quantity or quality of drinking water due to an emergency. The nearby city of Farmersville, California is receiving a $500,000 USDA grant to construct pipelines connecting Cameron Creek Colony to the Farmersville water main and linking residents to the city water system. This will provide much-needed relief and the surety of a stable water supply for those living in Cameron Creek Colony.
These grants are triple the amount we committed to when President Obama and I visited California in February. I am proud of the work USDA Rural Development staff in California have done to get this funding to those in need and the work they have done with municipal leaders in these rural communities to help residents, businesses and agricultural producers.
This drought is devastating for those who live, work and raise their families in much of rural California and the western United States. It is threatening the survival of whole communities and livelihoods of folks throughout the state. A UC Davis study released earlier this week reported that the drought will cause losses of $880 million in crop revenue, $203 million in dairy and other livestock value and additional groundwater pumping costs of $454 million. The total statewide economic cost of the 2014 drought is estimated to be a staggering $2.2 billion, with a loss of more than 17,000 seasonal and part time jobs.
As the drought continues, let me assure you that the Obama Administration and USDA are committed to increasing investments in the nation’s water infrastructure to mitigate the impact of climate change and to ensure that all Americans have adequate, safe and reliable water supplies. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/drought.