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Homeowners Struggle in Midst of California Drought

Carlen Overby (left), with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rural Development State Director Glenda Humiston, shares some of the struggles she and her neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony face since their wells have gone dry.

Carlen Overby (left), with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rural Development State Director Glenda Humiston, shares some of the struggles she and her neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony face since their wells have gone dry.

Carlen Overby’s days are filled with worry.  On July 4th, her well went dry and has since collapsed.  In order to flush toilets or wash dishes, she and her husband haul water in five-gallon jugs. And a hose from a neighbor’s house connects to her water tank so that she and her husband can take showers. When they started having trouble with their well, her husband got a second job so they could save enough money to drill a new well.  The average well costs around $20,000, and even then there’s a waiting list almost a year long.

“You wake up and you just expect that there will be water when you turn on the faucet,” she said. “Who knows how long it will be until our neighbor runs out of water, and then what will we do?”

It was those concerns Carlen spoke of when I visited her home on July 18 with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Carlen’s not alone either.  In the small community of Cameron Creek Colony in Tulare County where she lives, about ten percent of the 104 homes have wells that have gone dry, and others, like her neighbor Bob Sams, have only a few feet of water left.

“I’m one of the lucky ones, but I know pretty soon I’ll be out of water, too,” he explained.

The stress and worry are taking their toll. “Before the drought I didn’t really think about water, but now it’s all I can think about.”

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Carlen, Bob and 73,000 other Californians who are struggling with water issues.  USDA Rural Development is providing $9.7 million in emergency funding to 25 communities across California whose water systems have been impacted by the state’s devastating drought. For Carlen, Bob and their neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony this help means having the option to connect to the water system at nearby Farmersville.

Carlen Overby, a homeowner in Cameron Creek Colony whose well went dry on July 4, connects a hose from her neighbor's house so she and her husband have water to take a shower.

Carlen Overby, a homeowner in Cameron Creek Colony whose well went dry on July 4, connects a hose from her neighbor's house so she and her husband have water to take a shower.

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