Mendocino Water Supply Crushed by Drought

With towering redwoods, breathtaking cliffs, and glass-bottom beaches, Mendocino is one of the most popular tourist destinations in California. But a water crisis is now gripping the town, threatening its tourism-dependent economy and its residents’ quality of life.

With no municipal water system, Mendocino relies on rain-replenished wells. Thanks to the drought, those wells are running dry. The town is running completely out of water.

“We need water. We don’t have it,” Mendocino County Supervisor Ted Williams told the Los Angeles Times’ Hailey Branson-Potts.

“People are scared,” added Ryan Rhoades, superintendent of the Mendocino City Community Services District. He called it “a real emergency.”

The town has turned to all sorts of alternatives. Inn owners ask their visitors to bathe less, which can’t be good for business. Those who can afford it pay truckers from the Mendocino Water Company to deliver water by tanker.

Water hauling from Fort Bragg to Mendocino ceased on July 18 because of that city’s own drought emergency. Mendocino has considered hauling water from Willits, 35 miles east, but that city doesn’t want to give up its precious resource either. Water will be trucked in from Ukiah instead. Officials are also asking CalFire to start water-dropping from the skies.

The crisis is shocking but not all that surprising.

“The old water infrastructure in Mendocino, which has about 855 full-time residents, was never built to keep up with tourism, the town’s main industry, which brings about 2,000 visitors a day,” Potts notes. There was a push to build a municipal water system in the 1990s but it was rejected by development-weary residents.

Read more about the drought’s impact on this picturesque town and what officials hope to do about it here.


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