After little rain, California tourist town runs low on water

MENDOCINO, Calif. (AP) - A coastal tourist town in Northern California runs out of water after two years of little rain during a drought in the western United States, forcing local residents and business owners to move water from elsewhere.
Mendocino, known for its beaches, cliff paths and mammoth forests, relies on mostly shallow, rain-dependent aquifers, and many of the wells are running out or have dried up, the press democrat reported on Thursday.
The 170-year-old hamlet has about 1,000 full-time residents but about 2,000 daily visitors, said Ryan Rhoades, superintendent of the Mendocino Community Services District.
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The entire water requirement is covered by a network of 420 wells at various depths. Many of them were hand-excavated in the historic city's early years and are only 11 meters deep or shallower, Rhoades said.
Well shortages were reported in late spring last year, despite the fact that locals are so focused on water efficiency that they easily meet 40% protection requirements, he said.
A historic drought-related climate change hit California and other western states. It comes just a few years after California declared its last drought over in 2016. The previous drought has depleted groundwater supplies and changed the way people use water, as many people and businesses are demolishing the landscaping and replacing it with more drought tolerant plants.
Recently, businesses like Mendocino hotels have struggled to meet their water needs, and water trucks making deliveries are now becoming almost as common as tourists.
Some hotels charge additional fees for daily linen changes and use of hot tubs, and other companies are considering portable toilets to save water.
Most of the water was purchased from Fort Bragg, a town of about 7,300 people whose main source of water is the Noyo River. But with the flow of the river slacking off, officials stopped supplies to Mendocino this week to keep supplies to its residents.
There was talk of barge transporting water to deliver to Mendocino and other needy towns on the southern coast of Mendocino, railroading them from Willits inland town, and transporting them to the coast in wine tanks from Ukiah.
For the foreseeable future, Mendocino is expected to be transporting ever larger amounts of water, although it is not clear where it comes from and how.
"From fires to pandemics to droughts," said Ted Williams, the Mendocino County's supervisor. "I think drought could be the worst."
Rhoades said the Community Services District reached out to the Mendocino School Board, which has two 110,000 gallon storage tanks, to see if its members would sell some well water to the city. But it would have to be a small amount to allow a well to be restored, especially since the community's hydrants depend on the same spring.
But he said the community needs to find a long-term strategy to withstand arid conditions.
"But for now," said Rhoades, "the focus is on surviving this year."

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