Brett Walton returns to Monson, Calif., to visit a community losing its water, and finds some signs of hope, but serious problems yet:
An unincorporated rectangle of land in Tulare County, tiny Monson, home to no more than 200 people, became an international symbol of the rural heartache that is flowing from California’s drought wound. Surrounded by acres of Central Valley vineyards, pomegranate trees, and orchards of peaches and almonds, the community’s shallow domestic wells had no chance against the competition: some of the nation’s most lucrative farmland. Tulare County is the nation’s richest county measured by farm sales — $US 8 billion in 2014 — and irrigators pumped enormous volumes of groundwater, without restriction,from great depths to keep their fruit and nut assets alive and producing. Lower and lower the water table dropped as the electric pumps whirred. Soon, sand began spilling from faucets and toilets.