Water Well Gives Kings County Family Normalcy

Water Well Gives Kings County Family Normalcy

Posted on February 25, 2019

For Carl and Karen Mendez, the journey to clean and reliable water has been a long and tiring one. Their home is located in northeast Kings County, in the outskirts of Hanford. Like many homes in the countryside, the Mendez family depends on a water well for their daily water needs. Unfortunately, in May of 2014, in the midst of the drought, Carl and Karen’s well went dry. In his efforts to seek immediate relief, Carl worked with a local contractor to increase the depth of their well, which gave them a total of 10 more feet but only 12 inches of water. This alone was a very costly endeavor and left Carl worried about the future of his family’s wellbeing. “How long was the water going to last?” Carl asked himself constantly. For years, they did their best to use water very scarcely, only for the necessities. Eventually, however, their water well dried up again.

“Last summer the large agriculture companies surrounding our property began drilling new wells. This made our well go dry,” said Carl.

Carl and Karen, now in their 50’s, have lived in their home for almost 30 years, and together they raised three beautiful children, now all adults. Carl is a handyman and longtime gardener while Karen now stays at home after her battles with cancer and diabetes. When their well went dry for the second time, the agony set in. “I could not come up with $20,000 for a new well,” said Carl. For a period of 4 months, Carl and Karen were in complete survival mode, buying and hauling six totes of water every three weeks.

Carl first learned about Self-Help Enterprises (SHE) through a friend and was advised to seek assistance. “I first met Mr. Mendez in September of last year. The weather was hot and he was desperate to find a solution to his dry well problem,” said Apolinar Rodriguez, Drought Project Tech for Self-Help Enterprises. “We helped him understand our process and what he needed to do to get his application started.” Carl was very proactive throughout the entire process, turning in all of his paperwork in a timely and orderly fashion. This allowed SHE to begin work on his water well only a few months after initial contact. By the end of November, Carl had a brand new working well. “I was very excited to turn on the faucet,” said Carl. “Well look at that, we have water!”

After standard water testing however, Carl learned that his water was high in arsenic— a natural component of the earth’s crust that is widely distributed throughout the environment but highly toxic in the long-term, particularly through drinking water. Studies show that arsenic can increase health problems like cardiovascular disease, neurological problems, skin disorders, developmental disorders and cancer. According to SHE Program Director for Community Development Paul Boyer, “Wells drilled in certain portions of the San Joaquin Valley produce water contaminated with arsenic above allowable health levels.  Unfortunately, in this instance this deeper well tapped groundwater with these high arsenic levels.”

Thankfully, for Carl and Karen, SHE installed a point of use system that filters out harmful contaminants and provides the Mendez family with safe drinking water.

“I can go back to a normal life,” smiled Carl. “Self-Help Enterprises was very helpful. If it wasn’t for them, I would still be hauling water.” For the Mendez family, having clean and reliable water means having a better quality of life.

While much of California has moved past the drought, many families are still suffering from its lingering effects. SHE’s Drought Services Program provides residents with resources and clean water accessibility solutions, including offering low-interest loans to fix or replace private wells or to dig a new well. If you have been impacted by the drought and need assistance, please contact us at 559-651-1000 or visit our Drought Assistance page.

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