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


The historic city 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 supplies, which is only one water truck per day. “That’s the problem,” he said.

Over 84% of California experiences extreme drought, where current water supply is known to be inadequate 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 located 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.

Mendocino, California Drought
This 2017 photo shows Mendocino, California.


To conserve water, he said dirty dishwater is used to water the flowers. He also buys light sheets for the guest beds. “You can put more of it in one wash and you can dramatically 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.”

On Tuesday, the California Water Resources Control Board voted a emergency resolution restrict access to water for 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 over 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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