Drinking WaterDrought

Drought outpaces plans to fix failing drinking water systems

 •  by Jesse Vad and Lois Henry
Mayra Marquez stands outside the fenced and gated water well, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021 in Tulare County’s Okieville. CREDIT: Eric Zamora, the Fresno Bee

This story was produced with funding and support from Fresnoland, for the Fresno Bee. Republishing is encouraged 48 hours after initial posting.


A lot has happened over the past five years, but not much has changed in the tiny farmworker town of Okieville.

Wells went dry enmasse in Tulare County, including in Okieville, during the last drought in 2012-2016. Since then, the state has funded a new well for the town.

But the water troubles never ended. The well pump malfunctions frequently and can take days to fix, said Mayra Marquez, an Okieville resident.

“It’s very hectic,” Marquez said. “We’re out of water often.”

With the region again in the grip of drought, she’s worried.

“We can wake up tomorrow and not have water,” Marquez said. “It’s very hard not knowing.”

Residents of small, poor, mostly Latino communities throughout the central San Joaquin Valley are echoing Marquez’s concerns. Despite all the attention during the last drought and even some progress on a few projects, the same communities are again going dry or are on the brink.

The question is why?

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Jesse Vad and Lois Henry
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