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Got Water?

Sonora, CA – An accelerating rate of failing wells due to drought and county efforts in helping tap state relief assistance for residents loomed large in Tuesday’s Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Unsurprisingly, the supervisors unanimously voted to extend the local state of emergency, due to continuing drought impacts. According to Emergency Services Coordinator, Tuolumne County Tracie Riggs, the process for connecting residents whose wells are failing or have failed is being streamlined between collaborative county council, administrative and water district task force efforts. Possible options for residents who qualify for state fund assistance include temporary water tanks and connections to TUD. Another available state funding source is also available for certain residents who are located close enough to permanently connect to TUD water.

County Director of Environmental Health Rob Kostlivy reports that 25% of the well applications received by the county this year are due to the drought.

Tapping Emergency Water Assistance

Kostivy addressed the success of recent outreach efforts to make residents aware of state assistance monies available under California Disaster Assistance Act (CDAA) funding for drought-related emergency situations.

According to Riggs, state figures indicate that approximately 1,400 applications made by or on behalf of state residents requesting water assistance have been received. “The Governor is trying to get his hand on how big [relief applications] will be,” she stated.

“Since we’ve done this public outreach…about a month and a half ago, we have seen a huge increase in the amount of activity…of wells that are being reported to the county,” Kostivy stated. He added, “Looking at the homes that are actually impacted…from the past month and a half, we are looking at 70 homes — 70 residences — that are out of…or essentially out of water.”

Asked by the board for trending areas where residents have been experiencing water issues, Kostivy indicated that areas of increasing concern include Columbia, Campo Seco, and Jamestown.

Potential For Deluge Of Queries

According to Kostivy, when a local resident reports a failed or failing water source to the Environmental Health or OES offices, he visits the property to determine whether or not they qualify for the CDAA funding. In a statement to the board, Kostivy estimated that most or all of the homes will probably qualify for the assistance. When asked by the board how many other residents might apply for relief, Kostivy said he could only venture a “guesstimate” that the requests might at least double. He additionally noted that his office has received inquiries from neighboring county agencies, such as Mariposa, regarding processes to assist their own residents.

Kostivy cautioned the board to brace itself, stating, “Once we have an actual deliverable product, where we’ve delivered a tank to somebody or assistance in connecting to a public ultility district, these numbers are going to explode.”

Several board members weighed in on continued public awareness towards conservation of water resources from mindful residential water use, such as taking shorter showers to maintaining best property management practices as an environmental steward.

For more details from an earlier story on how to apply for assistance if you have a failing water source, click here.