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“It’s terrible and it’s only getting worse”: California tourist town running out of water amid drought


The historic town of Mendocino, California is running low on water and the reservoir it depends on is drying up amid a devastating drought in the state.

“It’s terrible and it’s only getting worse,” said Ryan Rhoades, the city’s groundwater manager. Rhoades said he was considering bringing in water by train. In the meantime, the local high school has donated part of its reserves, which is only one truck full of water per day. “That’s the problem,” he said.

More than 84% of California experiences extreme drought, where the current water supply is deemed insufficient for agriculture, wildlife and urban needs, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System. So far, this year has been the third driest year on record in terms of precipitation, and it comes after another remarkably dry year, according to Jay Lund, professor of environmental engineering at the University of California at Davis.

Businesses in the coastal town of Mendocino know all too well the effects of the historic drought in California.

Eric Hillesland, who runs the historic Alegria Inn in the village of Mendocino, said he was paying to haul water by truck so hotel guests can shower. He said it costs $ 600 for 3,500 gallons of water, which lasts a week at the hostel.

“It’s terrible and it’s only getting worse”: California tourist town running out of water amid drought
This 2017 photo shows Mendocino, California.

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To conserve water, he said dirty dishwater is used to water the flowers. He also purchases lightweight linens for the guest beds. “You can put more of it in just one load and you can drastically reduce your water use,” Hillesland said.

Even waitresses are spreading the word about conservation, telling customers to only take what they can drink. Outside of some businesses, port-a-potties have replaced closed toilets in an effort to stop draining a valuable resource.

At Café Beaujolais in Mendocino, the dining room is empty three evenings a week to save water. Owner Julian Lopez said he pays around $ 3,600 per month for water delivery. He said he could not truck in more water because “these towns on the coast are starting to shut down the sale of water.”

The California Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday passed an emergency resolution to restrict access to water to thousands of farmers in parts of California in the Central Valley, which includes Mendocino.

“Without this action, the drinking water supply of 25 million Californians and the irrigation water supply of more than 3 million acres of farmland could be at risk if the drought continues into next year,” wrote the board.

Lopez called Mendocino’s reality scary. “There is a scenario here where people are going to run out of water,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lund, the professor, said conserving water is the key to stopping the problem. He believes droughts like the one in Mendocino will cause water systems across the state to “be better prepared.”

“Every drought motivates greater changes, greater innovations in water management,” Lund said. “To some extent, droughts are important to the political ecosystem. There will be other water conservation activities motivated by this type of drought.

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