Coalinga, California, is set to run out of water before the end of this year.
The city’s only water source is an aqueduct that is managed by the federal government. Officials think that the water is going to run dry before the end of 2022, the Washington Post reported.
Local officials are scrambling for options. If their water supply comes up short, Coalinga politicians are going to have to buy water from the open market. It’s amazingly expensive and could impact Coalinga’s ability to provide other services for residents, according to Fox 26 News. Water on that market currently costs up to $2,500 an acre-foot, or 326,000 gallons, which would cost the city millions of dollars to obtain the necessary water. “Our citizens cannot afford a thousand dollar or a thousand percent increase on their water bills,” Adam Adkisson, a Coalinga city council member, told the local news station.
This isn’t the first year that Coalinga is feeling the pinch of water restrictions. The city has been under some sort of water restriction since 2014, according to Adkisson. And the amount allotted per acre-foot in the city has dwindled significantly in only a handful of years. Back in 2017, the Central Valley Project gave Coalinga a water allotment of about 10,000 acre-feet, according to ABC 30, but now that number is down to 2,000 acre-feet. The city’s water resources website currently announces “high conservation,” and residents are only allowed one day a week to water outdoor plants, and no watering is allowed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
There have been jarring signs of how bad Coalinga’s water crisis has become. The local fire chief had conducted tests on fire hydrants this past August, and one of the hydrants shot out a brick of compacted dry dirt, while another ejected an Axe body spray can, the Washington Post reported. Residents have begun buying and storing 5-gallon water jugs in their homes, and the city voted to stop watering front lawns this past August.
Many low-income communities across California are struggling to pay water bills. The increases have occurred faster than inflation: Water bills have increased about 45% from 2007 to 2015, according to a 2020 review from the California State Water Resources Control Board. Coalinga officials, like Adkisson, hope that they can eventually relieve the support from the state government to mitigate some of the financial strain.
California officials have pushed various policies throughout the state year to slow down water loss and to encourage residents to curb their personal water usage. Celebrities, including Khloe Kardashian Barker and Sylvester Stallone, were caught going over their allotted water budgets by more than 200% earlier this year. Meanwhile, regular folk in Los Angeles managed to lower their water use by almost 10% this past June.
After an especially dry winter, it’s no surprise that California is facing water woes. Earlier this year, researchers found an alarmingly low snowpack in the state’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The California Department of Water Resources found only 2.5 inches of snow at the Phillips Station, near Lake Tahoe. The average snow depth at the end of the year is supposed to be around 5 feet there. This meant less snowmelt for the state’s waterways and reservoirs. In May, when the state’s reservoirs were supposed to be at their highest levels, Lake Oroville was only at about 55% of its usual capacity.
States in the U.S. West are naturally dryer than other parts of the country. However, California and surrounding states have experienced unusually dry conditions this year, along with heat waves that have only worsened the dry conditions. Climate change has increased the likelihood of hotter and dryer conditions around the world, but especially in areas like California that struggle with maintaining water levels.