Tulare County Works to Provide Safe Drinking Water to Seville

A new water well in Seville is under construction.
A new water well in Seville is under construction.

For the thirsty community of Seville, its water woes should soon be over. For several years, the community’s well and pump have had problems keeping up with the demands of local residents for water quantity, as well as water quality.

Although the county wasn’t looking to get into the water business, the needs of its small communities have necessitated that the Tulare County Board of Supervisors step in and help. With no clearly defined owner of the aging Seville water system, the State Water Resources Control Board requested the county’s assistance, said Tulare County Supervisor Steve Worthley, whose district includes Seville.

“This actually works out to the advantage of the people there,” Worthley said.
Privately owned water systems normally could not qualify for grant funds, he explained. But, with the county working as a trustee for the Seville system, funds have been made available and many allocations made.

Water Quality

Several weeks ago, the 500 residents of Seville were started on a bottled-water program for cooking and drinking water through the California Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, to provide temporary relief. The water there is too high in nitrates due to the long-term use of the surrounding land for agriculture, said Eric Coyne, spokesman for the Tulare County Resource Management Agency.

County officials, looking for long-term solutions, were able to secure state funding for a water vending machine. Through a reverse-osmosis system, water will be cleansed and available at the machine site. Each Seville residence will be provided a card to use at the machine, where they can fill up bottles for their drinking and cooking needs.

Water Quantity

In recent years, conditions also deteriorated for water quantity in Seville. Low pressure from the existing well and tank due to the lower-water table, compounded with the fact that the old system is lineated, left many residents in the community without enough water to shower, or even flush the toilet. The lineated system means that those further down the line have less water than those closer to the well.

The solution of an additional larger water tank, which would provide more pressure, along with water being brought in by tanker, was being looked into. The water tank was ordered, but delayed. As county officials continued to review the situation, it was determined that it was actually more cost-effective to drill a new well.

“It made more sense to put in another well, than to haul in water,” Worthley said.

With most drilling rigs backed up, it was thought a new well could be one-and-a-half to two years away, but a fortunate find was made by Water Dynamics, the company hired by the county to take care of the old well.

Reedley-based Belknap Well Drilling had a rig available for a few days between other jobs. On a handshake agreement, the rig was brought in and work began immediately.

The result is a 300-foot well, nearly three times as deep as the old well, with good pressure, Worthley said.

The new well should be operational this week and will be used in conjunction with the older well, Worthley said. The new tank should be installed within the next few weeks. Water from the new well is currently being tested for its quality. However, no matter the result, the water vending machine is being built and will be installed as soon as possible.

Neighboring Communities Also Suffering

Other communities in the area are also facing major water issues, especially the small community of Monson. Residents there are on private wells, with no local water system. These wells are running dry.

“As bad as Seville has been, at least they had a water system,” Worthley said.

Also a farming community, most residents do not have the funds to attempt to dig a deeper well in their community, even if a rig was available. Some residents are sharing water with others, allowing their neighbors to hook up hoses to their well, with the fear that their own well could also run dry.

Monson, too, is being started on a bottled-water program. But, an immediate solution for the bigger picture of its water problems is more difficult to figure out, Worthley said.

In the long-term, there are several options being discussed, including a system for Monson together with neighboring Sultana. Likewise, a water district between Seville and Yettem is also being researched.
Meanwhile, the Alta Irrigation District is looking into the feasibility and funding possibilities of a surface water treatment facility. The hope is that fresh mountain water off of the river could be diverted to provide fresh water for Seville, Yettem, Cutler, Orosi, Sultana and Monson. If the decision is made to build a surface water treatment facility, the project could take few years to complete.

Other Water Issues in Tulare County

There are other areas of private wells running dry throughout the county, including an area in eastern Porterville where at least 70 individual wells have gone dry, Coyne said. These wells are very shallow, measuring only 20 to 50 feet. There are also other communities, water districts and cities suffering water problems due to the drought and their aging systems, including Strathmore.

County officials are continuing to seek short-term and long-term solutions to these problems.

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