Coalinga town officials estimate that their small town will run out of water by December 1.
The city, which is typically allotted 10,000 acre-feet of water, only received about 2,000 acre-feet this year, according to Pro-Tem Mayor Ray Singleton. And this offer is almost sold out.
“It was beautifully green just eight years ago. If you look at Google Maps, my garden was green, but like maybe five or six years ago, you look at it now, it’s like the desert of the Sahara,” Singleton said. He has lived there since 2000 and raised his family there.
The California Valley town, located inland between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is home to around 17,465 people. Everyone living in Fresno County, where Coalinga is located, is experiencing drought. This is the second driest year to date in the past 128 years oldaccording to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Residents of Coalinga live under water restrictions like not watering their lawns, not washing their cars outside, and a moratorium on swimming pools. If a resident wants to maintain their pool, they must sign a contract with the city that says they will provide their own 30,000 gallons of water, according to Singleton. One of Singleton’s current concerns is that the fire department will soon have to empty the hydrants, which could waste even more water.
A sign advises residents to conserve water on Saturday August 27, 2022 in Coalinga, CA.
Matt McClain | The Washington Post | Getty Images
The city is also the site of a state prison and a state mental hospital. The city has no control over how these facilities use water, and Singleton estimates that they draw about 25-30% of the city’s supply. He said he saw these institutions wasting water and called it “frustratingly crazy”.
Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga told CNBC it has reduced water use by more than 21% since 2020 with steps such as using pressurized water for cleaning, reducing urinal diaphragm capacity, reduced sewage treatment plant washout schedule, and reduced landscaping irrigation. The hospital did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Singleton has tried to buy water for Coalinga on the open market, but says the price is much higher than what it’s usually worth. Singleton said the city may have to raise taxes, but he hopes to find a grant or other financial assistance so Coalinga can provide every resident with the necessities. 55 gallons of water per day for health and safety standards.
They also put pressure on state officials. He said, “Sacramento, it’s beautiful up there. I mean, it’s like, wow, we’d like to have some of the water that you have. It’s crazy that we don’t have any .”
The California Department of Water Resources said the persistent drought is impacting many communities served by the Bureau of Reclamation. They said they have worked closely with the town of Coalinga to find solutions, including finding water that can be transferred to the town. They also said that the agency has funding through the Urban Community Drought Relief Grant program and would be willing to work with Coalinga to guide the city through the process. The DWR said it would be able to “provide immediate assistance regardless of the level of funding required to support the purchase of water for city needs”.
A large solar farm in the middle of rural farmland in Coalinga, California.
Jasondoïy | Istock | Getty Images
Meanwhile, as the farmland around him changed from trees to solar panels, Singleton also seemed to imply that water allocation might also have something to do with changes in the local economy. Singleton asked “are we in a drought or are we we in times of drought?”, gesturing to imply that the effects could be worse in Coalinga than elsewhere. He continued, “Because the state seems to look good around us and we look brown on the inside.”