What happens when a town runs out of water?

February 4, 2014

Newsweek takes a look at the dire water shortage in our little community of Lompico.

Lompico, California, is running out of water. The idyllic community of around 1,200 is tucked into a canyon in the Santa Cruz mountains, where majestic redwoods are common features of people’s backyards. Last week, Lompico appeared on a list of 17 rural districts that the state says may completely deplete their water supply in 60 to 120 days.

“As the drought goes on, there will be more that probably show up on the list,” Dave Mazzera, acting drinking-water division chief for the state Department of Public Health, told reporters.

It is hard to imagine what that means in absolute terms: Lompico’s approximately 500 homes get their water from three wells that draw on an underground aquifer. Aquifers are replenished by rainfall that seeps through the ground, which is a very slow process under normal conditions. California is three years deep into the worst drought the state has ever seen, and levels in the Lompico aquifer are dropping, as demand for water outstrips the rate at which it can be replenished. Even the Lompico creek, which might have been able to make up for part of the difference, has been all but dry since August. Lompico is largely out of options.

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