After Years of Work, Seville & Yettem Break Ground on New Water System

After Years of Work, Seville & Yettem Break Ground on New Water System

Posted on March 27, 2019

After decades of struggling with water quality and supply issues, on Tuesday March 5, 2019 the communities of Yettem and Seville came together to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Yettem-Seville Water System Improvement Project.

Yettem and Seville are small, low-income unincorporated communities located in Tulare County, approximately ten miles north of the city of Visalia. Together, these communities have a population of about 700 people, mainly comprised of Hispanic farmworkers. For decades, both communities have been plagued with water quality issues due to nitrate contamination.

Longtime resident, Becky Quintana has always struggled with water reliability and quality in her community. Now in her early 60’s, Becky attributes her interest in helping her community from seeing her late father Ladislao (Lalo) Jacquez show concern about the community’s water system. While not much change happened back then, the beginning of a dialogue was initiated. Community residents, like Becky’s father began to ask questions: “Why are we running out of water? Why does this keep happening?”

Becky’s role as a community leader began while serving on the local Stone Corral Elementary School Board where she learned more details of the severity of water issues in her community. At that time (2007) the school attempted to build a new gymnasium but was denied approval when the responsible agencies learned that the community’s water infrastructure was practically nonexistent.  It was revealed that most of Seville’s distribution system was almost 100 years old and was in a severely deteriorated condition.  The water lines were so bad and full of leaks, you could find them by following the growth of tule reeds that grew up over puddles that never went away.  To top this off, the single well supplying water to the entire community of Seville was unable to meet the community’s water demands and  water produced from the well now had levels of nitrate exceeding State and Federal health standards.

These findings propelled numerous conversations that led to new partnerships. In 2009, Tulare County agreed to be the temporary receiver of the Seville water system. Since then, community residents, county officials, state agencies and community organizations including Community Water Center and Self-Help Enterprises (SHE) have been working together to bring about solutions to address the aged water system.

Becky was among the several spirited residents who stepped up to form the Committee for a Better Seville as a way to come together, learn and have their voices heard. “We would go door-to-door passing out flyers for the meetings,” said Becky. “In the beginning we had several people but after a while people began to get frustrated because they wouldn’t see any progress.” The process was long and it required patience. Delia Martinez, also a long-time resident said her motivation to get involved stemmed from her belief this work needed to get done to benefit future generations. “It’s not going to be so much for us anymore, but for our kids,” said Delia. “I sometimes wonder if my health problems were caused by the water. I have severe pain in my legs and hands and my 3 brothers who are also residents of Seville have similar problems.” Delia will never truly know the real causes of her health issues, but works tirelessly alongside Becky and other community members to bring forth positive change.

SHE has long been involved with the community of Seville. Our initiator, Bard McAllister, had built up a relationship with community members in the 1970’s.  As a new SHE recruit, Paul Boyer remembers being introduced by Bard to Lalo Jacquez in 1977.  Soon after, Lalo had Paul on the back of his motorcycle riding through the community and viewing the community’s challenges with water, sewer and lack of natural gas as top priorities.  Septic systems serving homes in Seville had a problem known as the Seville Adobe.  This registered soil type prevented septic tank effluent from percolating into the soil.  SHE worked with residents, Tulare County, as well as State and Federal agencies.  SHE prepared the funding applications that were approved by USDA and the State to eventually build a sewer system that was constructed in the 1980’s.

With regards to Seville’s water issues, SHE, along with Community Water Center, served the role of a guide and resource. SHE assisted in the facilitation of numerous community meetings and prepared planning and construction funding applications which are now approved for the Yettem-Seville Water System Improvement Project funded by State Water Resources Control Board.  Construction of the water system improvements will commence in two phases, with Phase 1 now started and set to be completed by the end of this year. Phase 1 will replace the deteriorated Seville water distribution system and include smart water meters and construct a new water storage tank. Phase 2 of the project will drill a new well in Yettem and install a pipeline to connect both communities’ water systems to each other. The estimated project cost is $4 million.

In November 2018, Yettem and Seville voters approved Measure Y to form the Yettem-Seville Community Services District along with the election of five Directors to the new district’s Board.  This historic action will allow the newly formed district to operate the new combined water systems once construction is complete.

Seville and Yettem have a very exciting future ahead of them,” said Seamus Guerin, Community Development Specialist for Self-Help Enterprises. “The interconnection of the communities’ systems, bringing a more secure water supply for both Yettem and Seville, is on the horizon. A park, better street lighting, sidewalks; it’s all possible going forward for the communities and families of Yettem and Seville.”



Recent Comments