Tomas Garcia, a resident of East Porterville for over 30 years, has been a water justice advocate since the drought began to affect his community’s water supply. “I started having trouble with my well,” he said. “I thought it was going to be a very simple deal to fix the situation but it was a very complicated situation.” Since then, Tomas has worked with CWC to organize East Porterville for Water Justice (EPWJ), a community based organization made up of impacted residents working for water solutions. “I like to help my community. What I do, I do for my family,” he said.
The drought disproportionately affects residents of East Porterville because East Porterville is an unincorporated community of approximately 7,500 residents, many of whom are low-income Latinos, that relies on groundwater from private wells. As many as 300 wells went dry during the hot summer months of 2014, and many others are contaminated with nitrate pollutants. At least 1800 homes in East Porterville are not connected to city water, and those that are still face the problem of contamination. “A lot of people in my community don’t want to speak and let people know they are suffering,” Tomas said. “When you come home from work (after) 10 hours and there’s not water, it’s very hard.”
CWC helped Tomas get bottled water and a tank installed to serve his home. “(CWC) helped me have more time with my family.” Tomas has two young daughters in elementary and middle school, and he worries about their access to water. The school has running water, but he is concerned about potential pollution. “At school the kids get city water. I don’t know how good the water is for drinking,” he says, “It’s better they have bottled water.”
The city of Porterville and private residents began providing the community emergency drinking water supplies in the fall of 2014. The Porterville Area Coordinating Council (PACC) provided residents with 275-gallon water tanks, and the City of Porterville has funded refilling these tanks. The city of Porterville would like to connect East Porterville to their water system and has installed lines in some areas, but additional funding and capacity is required to solve this problem.