Haunted by Waters

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You stand in the mist and roar of Snoqualmie Falls, more than 100 feet higher than Niagara, and feel the liquid power of the Cascade Mountains crashing down. It’s been raining, seemingly nonstop, for at least a month in the Pacific Northwest, and this is the payoff. Hope is 4,000 cubic feet of water per second, going off a cliff.

In this century, water will be more precious than oil, an Enron executive told me some years ago. At the time, the suits from Houston had yet to be indicted; they were on a greed high. Having manipulated the West Coast energy market, they were looking for the next commodity to corral — water.

Today, I want to feel the life-force of free water after a summer without rain, the hottest on record. You don’t know what you’ve got, goes the song, till it’s gone. At Snoqualmie Falls, about 27 miles east of Seattle, the mountains squeeze snowmelt and rainfall into three forks that form a river that tumbles to a canyon of green, with aural orchestration.

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Normally a busy site, the big Cascade cataract is nearly empty on this shower-ensnarled day, save a chartered busload of people from China. Clean water in a photogenic free-fall is an international tourist draw. Clean air, in any form, may soon be as well. In China, people are buying bottled air from Canada, in 7.7 liter canisters — a joke at first, now a booming business. A restaurant outside Shanghai is charging an extra fee to sit in a room with a breathable atmosphere.

As the nations of the world gathered outside Paris, you saw the pictures from China: masked residents trying to cope with the carbon-thick soup of the world’s latest industrial revolution. Many may be forced to leave, climate refugees, fleeing to stay alive.

In some circles, it’s laughable to suggest that global “weirding” is an international security threat. But in sub-Saharan Africa, where the desert creeps south, or in Bangladesh, where half the population lives on ground less than 16 feet above sea level, or in Syria, where extreme drought was a factor in the collapse of a nation, a warmer earth is already generating refugees. The Pentagon has warned of coming wars over water.

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If self-interest, or fear, is what it takes to motivate a nation like China to join the world community in saving this troubled little orb of ours, then so be it. Elsewhere, the prospect of 200 million people on the move, most of them Muslim, may finally win over that other block of obstructionists, the Republican Party.

You think about all the places that need water, and all the places that have too much water. You wonder if this Paris climate accord can set things right, or whether the new normal is the scary normal.

In Florida, the majestic Keys are swamped. December rains and high tides have left mosquito-thick canals and stagnant pools. Most of the Keys are less than six feet above sea level. Climate scientists predict that a five-foot rise, which could happen by 2100, would wipe out 70 percent of the property value.

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That’s property, as in real estate. So perhaps this concern is enough to get the Republican presidential front-runner to rethink his pronounced idiocies on climate change. It’s a hoax, says Donald J. Trump, with all the practiced hucksterism of the swampland salesman. He may feel different when one of his resorts is below the sea. He’s got Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, rooms with a view of a tomorrow that won’t answer to his bluster.

His colleagues in science denial, gathered at a fake palazzo in Las Vegas, with a fake canal mimicking a real city that may soon be underwater, could have benefited from a field trip to nearby Lake Mead. This is the nation’s largest reservoir, allowing a city of 1.3 million to sprout in a desert that gets about four inches of rain a year. This summer, Lake Mead fell to its lowest level since it was initially filled. It has dropped nearly 150 feet in the last 14 years.

When the rains finally came to the Northwest this year, you saw images of more real estate in peril, landslides and teetering homes. What you didn’t see were all the reservoirs filling, the salmon streams flush once again, snow piling up in the Cascades — water as a positive force.

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In a month or more, the atmospheric river is supposed to shift south, to California, its Godzilla El Niño. They need 11 trillion gallons, an entire year of precipitation, to recover. As a hedge, this week a $1 billion plant opened in San Diego County, the largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. It’s a small piece, an engineered solution that will meet barely 10 percent of the county’s water needs.

The anemic Sacramento River, the parched Central Valley, the snow-starved Sierra — they will require something more. They need waterfalls like Snoqualmie, the spray in the face, renewal during the darkest days of the year.

(The original has been published in The New York Times)

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No One Leaves Home Unless Home Is the Mouth of A Shark

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Having left their battered hometown in hopes of reaching Greece and ultimately Canada, Kurdi said, “Now I don’t want anything. Even if you give me all the countries in the world, I don’t want them… My kids were the most beautiful children in the world. They are all gone now…We want the whole world to see this. Let this be the last.”

For now, the catastrophe goes on. There are ways to help – see here, here, here, here, here,here.

There is, too, a need to understand – that “no one would leave home/unless home chased you to the shore,” that “no one puts their children in a boat/unless the water is safer than the land,” that all of this happens when “home is the barrel of the gun.” From the Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire:

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

the go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

 AFP photo
Aylan and Galip

Symantec, Levi Strauss & Co., Mars, Dignity Health, and Autodesk Join Dozens of Companies Supporting California’s Sweeping Climate Change Bills

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SACRAMENTO, CA Aug 25, 2015

With barely two weeks left in the state legislative session, more than two-dozen California companies today announced their support for two major climate bills – SB 32 and SB 350 – that would set new ambitious state goals for reducing climate-changing pollution, boosting renewable energy and decreasing petroleum use over the next 15 years.

“Our support is firmly grounded in economic reality,” wrote the companies in letters delivered today to legislative leaders. “We know that tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century and we applaud the California State Legislature for taking steps to help seize that opportunity.”

Company executives also held in-person meetings with legislators and joined the bills’ lead sponsors, Senator Fran Pavley and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, at a news conference. The letters and meetings were organized by the nonprofit sustainability advocacy group Ceres.

SB 32, which builds on the progress made by Senator Pavley’s 2006 landmark climate bill AB 32, sets a climate pollution reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. SB 350, referred to as Golden State Standards 50-50-50, calls for Californians to increase energy efficiency in existing buildings by 50 percent, obtain half their electricity from renewable sources and reduce petroleum use by 50 percent by 2030.

“The power is in our hands today to make a difference in stemming the release of harmful greenhouse gas emissions that we know are already negatively impacting human health, the environment and our economy,” said Rachelle Reyes Wenger, Director, Public Policy and Community Advocacy for Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest health care companies with 32 hospitals in California, speaking at today’s news conference. “SB 32 and SB 350 are common sense policies that our state needs now. That’s why Dignity Health is standing with Senator Pavley and Senator de Leon today in support of these measures.”

“Moving ahead with these bills will solidify California’s stake as a global leader in addressing climate change,” added Anna Walker, Senior Director for Global Policy and Advocacy for Levi Strauss & Co., which is headquartered in San Francisco. “SB 32 and SB 350 will not only help our state advance its climate change goals—which are critical to the long-term prosperity of California businesses, residents and the environment—they will also help our state continue to do one of the things it does best – innovate.”

“SB 32 and SB 350 create a positive environment for companies like Autodesk, and the design community as a whole, to develop innovative solutions around low-carbon technologies, buildings and vehicles that can empower industries and communities to address climate change,” said Ben Thompson, Senior Manager Sustainability at Autodesk.

For the full letters and complete list of companies supporting each of the bills, see: www.ceres.org/files/sb32-company-sign-on-letter and www.ceres.org/files/ca-sb350-sign-on-letter.

“These companies recognize that both SB 350 and SB 32 are vital next steps in California’s leading-edge plan to cut carbon pollution and accelerate low-carbon technologies at the pace and scale called for by climate scientists,” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber, whose group with its recently opened California office is mobilizing companies to support strong climate policies through its business network, Business for Innovative Climate & Clean Energy Policy (BICEP), and the Ceres’ Climate Declaration. “Many of these supporting companies have set their own aggressive renewable energy and energy efficiency goals that will be more achievable with enactment of these two climate bills.”

About Ceres
Ceres is a nonprofit organization mobilizing business and investor leadership on climate change, water scarcity and other sustainability challenges. Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of over 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $13 trillion. Ceres also directs Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), an advocacy coalition of 34 businesses committed to working with policy makers to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation. For more information, visit www.ceres.org or follow on Twitter @CeresNews

 

People Who Live Near Fracking Sites Suffer Higher Rates of Heart Conditions and Neurological Illnesses, Says Research

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People who live in fracking zones appear to suffer a higher rate of heart conditions and neurological illnesses, according to new research.

Although the US study was unable to determine a specific reason, it suggests there may be a link between drilling and ill health, scientists said.

Residents in high-density areas of fracking made 27 per cent more hospital visits for treatment for heart conditions than those from locations where no fracking took place, according to a new study of drilling in Pennsylvania between 2007 and 2011.

“This study captured the collective response of residents to hydraulic fracturing in zip codes within counties with higher well densities,” said Reynold Panettieri, professor of medicine at Penn University.

“At this point, we suspect that residents are exposed to many toxicants, noise and social stressors due to hydraulic fracturing near their homes and this may add to the increased number of hospitalisations.”

The findings revealed that cardiology and neurological in-patient prevalence rates were significantly higher in areas closer to active wells. Hospitalisations for skin conditions, cancer and urological problems also increased with proximity to wells.

Prof Panettieri cautioned that the study did not prove that fracking actually caused the health problems and said more research was needed to determine exactly what effect any pollution associated with the technique may be contributing to heart conditions or neurological illnesses.

But the significant increase in hospital visits observed relatively quickly after fracking began in an area “suggests that healthcare costs of hydraulic fracturing must be factored into the economic benefits of unconventional gas and drilling”, said the report, which is published in the journal PLOS One and also involved Columbia University in New York.

The highly controversial technique of fracking, that releases oil or gas from shale by blasting a mixture of water, chemicals and sand into rock, is yet to be employed in the UK on a commercial scale. It is widespread in the US, however, where it has frequently been linked to groundwater and air pollution.

Yet a series of reports in the UK have concluded that the problems arising from fracking in the US are down to weak regulations and poor techniques. Advocates say that any fracking in the UK would be done safely, meaning residents will be shielded from the difficulties experienced by locals in the US.

But opponents of fracking – including the Scottish and Welsh Governments – argue that still far too little is known about the effects of the technique, and say more research needs to be done before it is deployed in the UK.

This latest report will be seen as further evidence that more research needs to be conducted before fracking is allowed in the UK – even though it does not get to the bottom of the causes of the health problems.

 

Tokyo Heat Wave Lasted Eight Days, Doubling All-Time Record; 55 Confirmed Dead in Japan

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A heat wave that has already killed dozens and sickened thousands in Japan reached another torrid milestone Friday as the nation’s capital, Tokyo, suffered an unprecedented eighth consecutive day of extreme heat.

Tokyo reached 37.7 degrees Celsius (99.9 degrees Fahrenheit) Friday, marking its eighth straight day of highs at or above Japan’s “extreme heat” threshold of 35 C (95 F). An analysis of Japan Meteorological Agency data, conducted by The Weather Channel, confirmed that the previous record was just four consecutive days sent on five different occasions between 1978 and 2013. Records began in central Tokyo in June 1875.

The torrid late-morning reading also marked central Tokyo’s highest reported temperature since August 2013. The city’s all-time record high remains 39.5 C (103.1 F) set July 20, 2004.

The toll from Japan’s ongoing heat wave accelerated last week, boosting the year’s official tally to 55 heat-related deaths and sending more than 11,000 to the hospital according to new government figures released Tuesday.

According to Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency, 25 people died from heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses nationwide during the week of July 27 through Aug. 2. It was by far the deadliest week so far this year in Japan, nearly equaling the death toll of 30 in the preceding three months combined.

Public broadcaster NHK said another 5 heat deaths were confirmed Wednesday in Japan, in addition to 7 unconfirmed heat deaths.

The toll seems likely to rise even further as more deaths are officially attributed to the heat. NHK, citing local authorities, said heat-related illnesses are suspected of causing 68 deaths in Tokyo alone between July 11 and Aug. 4. The official national count of 55 only includes two deaths in Tokyo through Aug. 2.

The number of people sent to hospitals for heat-related illnesses also skyrocketed, reaching 11,637 when excluding the 25 deaths. This was more than double the figure for the same period in 2014. Since April 27, more than 35,000 people have been hospitalized due to hot weather in Japan. Of those, 855 have required at least three weeks of hospitalization due to the severity of their illness.

The heat has spared no region of the country. Heat-related deaths have been reported in 29 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, and each of the 47 prefectures has reported at least 100 heat-related illnesses.

The greatest concentration, however, has been in the nation’s urbanized areas – in part due to weather and in part simply due to larger populations. The Greater Tokyo area accounts for 19 of the 55 heat deaths this year, with Saitama prefecture suffering the highest death toll (nine) of any single prefecture. Tokyo proper leads the casualty count with 3,037 people affected by the heat, including two deaths.

Japan’s aging population is particularly vulnerable to the heat. Just over 49 percent of this year’s illnesses have involved people at least 65 years old. Children account for about 15 percent of the total, with adults ages 18 to 65 constituting the rest of the total.

The heat has expanded in recent days. According to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency, 223 of the nation’s 928 temperature observation sites recorded a high of at least 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday (Aug. 1), and more than two-thirds of the observation network hit at least 30 C (86 F).

Aided by abundant sunshine and a dearth of thunderstorm activity, more than 81 percent of JMA’s observation network hit the 30 C mark Tuesday, the highest figure since Aug. 22, 2012. The heat spread even further Wednesday, when 822 out of 928 sites reached 30 C, a level not matched since Aug. 6, 2010.

The heat even spread to the normally cool shores of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main Islands. The city of Nemuro reached an all-time record high of 33.6 C (92.5 F) Wednesday, topping the previous record of 33.0 C (91.4 F) set Aug. 6, 1960. Records in Nemuro date all the way back to 1879, making this an especially significant record climatologically.

Arguably the epicenter of the heat has been in the northern suburbs of Tokyo, which are among the hottest regions of the country owing to their low elevation, long distance from the coast and southerly latitude – a rare combination in Japan.

The city of Tatebayashi in Gunma prefecture recorded its 13th consecutive day of temperatures 35 C or higher on Wednesday, reaching 39.8 C (103.6 F). That’s the highest temperature recorded anywhere in Japan this year, according to JMA, and ties for the 25th-highest daily high temperature ever recorded in Japanese history.

In Japan, a day with temperatures reaching or exceeding 35 C (95 F) is known as a mōshobi, written as 猛暑日 and meaning “extremely hot day.” It’s likely no coincidence that the first character of that term is also the first character of Japan’s highest category of typhoon – mōretsu, written as 猛烈 and meaning “violent.”

The latter term was applied to Super Typhoon Soudelor when it peaked in intensity Monday. The typhoon impacted Japan’s southernmost islands on Friday, but was too far south to bring any heat relief to the mainland.

 

Ghana’s Catholic Bishops hit the streets to protest….against condoms…..

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The Catholic Bishops’ Conference hit the streets of Accra, after a two-day international Pro-life conference to protest against artificial means of birth control such as the use of condoms, abortion, sterilization and vasectomies.

Over 1000 participants including professional men and women in the fields of medicine, nursing, science, law, politics, academia and the media joined the float to fight against the Culture of Death through the teaching and promotion of the Gospel of life.

Excerpts of the placards read, “Every life is created in the image of God, protect it!,” “Abortion is a sin, stop it!” “Life starts from the womb, protect it!,” sex is for married couples only,” “protect the unborn child,” “eternal values-life and faith,” abortion is evil, stop it!,” don’t kill our future generation,” “not ready to be a mother? No sex,” international organizations stop promoting abortion in Ghana, “African governments stop promoting the culture of death.”

The Catholic Priesthood strongly held that such mechanisms promote the culture of death that has come to Africa in the form of population control measures imposed on us by multi-national organizations.

According to them, it is against the moral teachings of the scriptures and therefore, anything that hinders procreation must be disregarded.

The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the priests, religious bodies and laity of the Catholic Church in Accra ended a two-day International Pro-life Conference in Accra from 7th to 8th August under the theme, “Protecting Life and Family Values in the Continuing Culture of Death.”

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Speakers, leaders, advocates, activists, researchers from Europe, America and Arica where brought together to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to the issues of the dignity and sanctity of human life and the defence of marriage and family.

A communiqué issued at the end of the tow-day conference declared that the family is a cradle where life is welcomed, nurtured and protected.

Thus, every family, with marriage at its core, must create a conducive environment where the inestimable value of life is emphasized and upheld.

It noted that sacramental marriage is instituted by God as a permanent and indissoluble union between one man and one woman; open to live and love.

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Thus, other forms of unions such as homosexual unions and adulterous unions are inimical to the mind of the Creator-they undermine the integrity of the human being and the family and as such should never be promoted or supported in our society.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in a resolution, will continue to resist the persistent and pernicious attempts to impose population control on Africa by wealthy philanthropists, donor nations and international organizations who are pursuing this agenda subtly under the platform of sexual and reproductive and health rights.

The Ghana Catholic Bishops have resolve to work with government, other faith-based organizations and the civil society groups as well as the media to promote and sustain the importance of faith and family in human development, public education and in the social order.

By Abubakari Seidu Ajarfor, jarfemma@gmail.com

California’s Drought: Thousands Are Living Without Running Water

tulare-2.0_0 Most of us are feeling the effects of the California drought from a distance, if at all: Our produce is a little more expensive, our news feeds are filled with images of cracked earth. But thousands of people in California’s Central Valley are feeling the drought much more acutely, because water has literally ceased running from their taps. The drought in these communities resembles a never-ending natural disaster, says Andrew Lockman, manager of the county’s Office of Emergency Services. Most disasters are “sudden onset, they run their course over hours or days, and then you clean up the mess. This thing has been growing for 18 months and it’s not slowing down.” Here’s what you need to know about California’s most parched places:

What do you mean by “no running water”? No water is coming through the pipes, so when residents turn on the tap or the shower, or try to flush the toilet or run the washing machine, water doesn’t come out.

Who doesn’t have running water? While a handful of communities across the state are dealing with municipal water contamination and shortages, the area that’s hardest hit—and routinely referred to as the “ground zero of the drought”—is Tulare County, a rural, agriculture-heavy region in the Central Valley that’s roughly the size of Connecticut. As of this week, 5,433 people in the county don’t have running water, according to Lockman. Most of those individuals live in East Porterville, a small farming community in the Sierra Foothills. East Porterville is one of the poorest communities in California: over a third of the population lives below the federal poverty line, and 56 percent of adults didn’t make it through high school. About three quarters of residents are Latino, and about a third say they don’t speak English “very well.”

Why don’t they have running water? Many Tulare homes aren’t connected to a public water system—either because they are too rural or, in the case of East Porterville, because when the community was incorporated in the late 1970s, there wasn’t enough surface water available to serve the community. Until recently, this wasn’t a problem: the homes have private wells, and residents had a seemingly unlimited supply of groundwater. Most domestic wells in East Porterville are relatively shallow—between 25 and 50 feet deep—because water wasn’t far below ground level. With California in its fourth year of drought, there’s been little groundwater resupply and a lot more demand—particularly as farmers resort to pumping for water—leading the water table to drop dramatically and wells to go dry. Those with money can dig deeper wells, but this generally costs between $10,000 and $30,000—a cost that’s prohibitive for many Tulare residents. images (1) If they don’t have running water, how do they function? Of the roughly 1,200 Tulare homes reporting dry wells, about 1,000 of them have signed up for a free bottled water delivery service coordinated by the county. Homes receive deliveries every two weeks; each resident is allotted half a gallon of drinking water per day. The county has also set up three large tanks of nonpotable water, where residents can fill up storage containers for things like showering, flushing toilets, or doing dishes. Portable showers, toilets, and sinks have been set up in front of a church in East Porterville.

Wait, people are showering outside a church? Yup. Some residents have been living without water for over a year, says Susana De Anda, the director of the Community Water Center, a non-profit serving the area. “It’s a huge hygiene issue where we don’t have running water. It kind of reminds me of Katrina,” she says. “The relief came but it came kind of late.”

The state’s offering temporary help, right? To provide interim relief, the county is also working to install water storage tanks outside of homes with dry wells. The 2,500-gallon tanks, usually set up in yards, are filled with potable water and connected to the home, giving a rough semblance of running water. Only about 170 such tanks have been installed so far, in part because the process for installing the tanks is so laborious. Applicants need to prove ownership of the house, open their home to a site assessment, and more—with each step of the process involving a days or weeks long queue. Some 1,300 homes still don’t have tanks installed. water Hundreds of rental properties don’t have running water, and because domestic water storage tanks aren’t set up at rental units, migrant workers aren’t likely to reap the benefits of this interim solution. Another challenge is misinformation: The free water programs are open to residents regardless of citizenship, but myths still prevents some from taking advantage of the services. When the portable showers were first installed in front of the church, says Lockman, many people suspected they were an immigration enforcement trap. Some parents haven’t been sending their children to school, having heard that child welfare services would take away kids from families that don’t have running water.

Who’s working on this? This year, the state has set aside $19 million to be spent on emergency drinking water. In Tulare, the Office of Emergency Services, which coordinates a network of contractors covering the needs of half a million people, currently has a staff of four people. (Three more positions were approved this week.) In the long term, community leaders are working to build an infrastructure so that homes can be linked to a municipal water supply. But that work is “slow and expensive,” says Melissa Withnell, a county spokesperson. 31203778 Are farmers taking the water? Yes, but it’s hard to blame them. Tulare County is among the biggest agricultural producers in the country, growing everything from pistachios and almonds to grapes and livestock. “If you were to just look at the landscape, it’s very green,” says De Anda. “You wouldn’t think we were in a drought.” The industry brings in nearly 8 billion dollars per year, employing many of those individuals who currently lack running water. Permits to drill new wells have skyrocketed—just this year, nearly 700 irrigation wells have been permitted, compared to about 200 domestic wells. (Wells permits are issued on a first come, first served basis.) “It’s like one big punch bowl that’s not getting refilled but everybody’s been slowly drinking out of it and now we have a thirsty football team at the same punch bowl as everybody else,” says Lockman. “Do we have sustainability problems? Oh yeah, absolutely.”