California’s Drought Is So Bad That Thousands Are Living Without Running Water


Vickie Yorba, 94, stands next to a water tank outside her home in East Porterville, California.

Most of us are feeling the effects of the California drought from a distance, if at all: Our produce is a little more expensive, our news feeds are filled with images of cracked earth. But thousands of people in California’s Central Valley are feeling the drought much more acutely, because water has literally ceased running from their taps. The drought in these communities resembles a never-ending natural disaster, says Andrew Lockman, manager of the county’s Office of Emergency Services. Most disasters are “sudden onset, they run their course over hours or days, and then you clean up the mess. This thing has been growing for 18 months and it’s not slowing down.”

Here’s what you need to know about California’s most parched places:

What do you mean by “no running water”?
No water is coming through the pipes, so when residents turn on the tap or the shower, or try to flush the toilet or run the washing machine, water doesn’t come out.

Who doesn’t have running water?
While a handful of communities across the state are dealing with municipal water contamination and shortages, the area that’s hardest hit—and routinely referred to as the “ground zero of the drought”—is Tulare County, a rural, agriculture-heavy region in the Central Valley that’s roughly the size of Connecticut. As of this week, 5,433 people in the county don’t have running water, according to Lockman. Most of those individuals live in East Porterville, a small farming community in the Sierra Foothills. East Porterville is one of the poorest communities in California: over a third of the population lives below the federal poverty line, and 56 percent of adults didn’t make it through high school. About three quarters of residents are Latino, andabout a third say they don’t speak English “very well.”

Why don’t they have running water?
Many Tulare homes aren’t connected to a public water system—either because they are too rural or, in the case of East Porterville, because when the community was incorporated in the late 1970s, there wasn’t enough surface water available to serve the community. Until recently, this wasn’t a problem: the homes have private wells, and residents had a seemingly unlimited supply of groundwater. Most domestic wells in East Porterville are relatively shallow—between 25 and 50 feet deep—because water wasn’t far below ground level.

With California in its fourth year of drought, there’s been little groundwater resupply and a lot more demand—particularly as farmers resort to pumping for water—leading the water table to drop dramatically and wells to go dry. Those with money can dig deeper wells, but this generally costs between $10,000 and $30,000—a cost that’s prohibitive for many Tulare residents.

If they don’t have running water, how do they function?
Of the roughly 1,200 Tulare homes reporting dry wells, about 1,000 of them have signed up for a free bottled water delivery service coordinated by the county. Homes receive deliveries every two weeks; each resident is allotted half a gallon of drinking water per day. The county has also set up three large tanks of nonpotable water, where residents can fill up storage containers for things like showering, flushing toilets, or doing dishes. Portable showers, toilets, and sinks have been set up in front of a church in East Porterville.

Wait, people are showering outside a church?
Yup. Some residents have been living without water for over a year, says Susana De Anda, the director of the Community Water Center, a non-profit serving the area. “It’s a huge hygiene issue where we don’t have running water. It kind of reminds me of Katrina,” she says. “The relief came but it came kind of late.”

The state’s offering temporary help, right?
To provide interim relief, the county is also working to install water storage tanks outside of homes with dry wells. The 2,500-gallon tanks, usually set up in yards, are filled with potable water and connected to the home, giving a rough semblance of running water. Only about 170 such tanks have been installed so far, in part because the process for installing the tanks is so laborious. Applicants need to prove ownership of the house, open their home to a site assessment, and more—with each step of the process involving a days or weeks long queue. Some 1,300 homes still don’t have tanks installed.

Hundreds of rental properties don’t have running water, and because domestic water storage tanks aren’t set up at rental units, migrant workers aren’t likely to reap the benefits of this interim solution. Another challenge is misinformation: The free water programs are open to residents regardless of citizenship, but myths still prevents some from taking advantage of the services. When the portable showers were first installed in front of the church, says Lockman, many people suspected they were an immigration enforcement trap. Some parents haven’t been sending their children to school, having heard that child welfare services would take away kids from families that don’t have running water.

Who’s working on this?
This year, the state has set aside $19 million to be spent on emergency drinking water. In Tulare, the Office of Emergency Services, which coordinates a network of contractors covering the needs of half a million people, currently has a staff of four people. (Three more positions were approved this week.)

In the long term, community leaders are working to build an infrastructure so that homes can be linked to a municipal water supply. But that work is “slow and expensive,” says Melissa Withnell, a county spokesperson.

Are farmers taking the water?
Yes, but it’s hard to blame them. Tulare County is among the biggest agricultural producers in the country, growing everything from pistachios and almonds to grapes and livestock. “If you were to just look at the landscape, it’s very green,” says De Anda. “You wouldn’t think we were in a drought.” The industry brings in nearly 8 billion dollars per year, employing many of those individuals who currently lack running water. Permits to drill new wells have skyrocketed—just this year, nearly 700 irrigation wells have been permitted, compared to about 200 domestic wells. (Wells permits are issued on a first come, first served basis.) “It’s like one big punch bowl that’s not getting refilled but everybody’s been slowly drinking out of it and now we have a thirsty football team at the same punch bowl as everybody else,” says Lockman. “Do we have sustainability problems? Oh yeah, absolutely.”


Gun Insanity: Activists Call to Ban Gun Emoji

Gun control group jumps shark by going after pixels

Believe it or not, symbols in text messages are the next target for fervent anti-gun activists in New York.

Under the “Disarm the iPhone” campaign, “New Yorkers Against Gun Violence” is calling on Apple to remove the gun emoji from their iPhone devices.

An accompanying video for the ad campaign, which we assure you is real, tries to sell the idea that getting rid of the emoji would somehow lead to less gun deaths.

Daily Beast: Obama Administration Hiding Unclassified Iran Documents

The Obama administration is hiding 17 unclassified documents that are part of the Iran nuclear deal, according to a new report.

The Daily Beast reports a cache of 18 documents are sitting in Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facilities (SCIFs) in the U.S. Capitol complex. Seventeen of the documents, however, are unclassified — which raises the question of why they are being stored in containers normally reserved for classified information.

The administration gave the 18 documents to Congress on July 19, and the legislative body is now tasked with reviewing them before it either approves or denies the landmark deal. The 17 unclassified documents, however, do require a security clearance to view, reports The Daily Beast.

The California Drought: $1.8 billion in losses

drought-californiaForecast calls for $1.8 billion in farm revenue losses…

While California remains gripped by drought, the scale of lost agricultural jobs and lowered revenue is emerging. And the numbers don’t look good.

Vast tracts of farmland—mostly in the Central Valley—have been fallowed, which means idled to accumulate moisture. An estimated 564,000 acres will be idled, according to an economic update on the drought from researchers at the University of California at Davis.

10 Stories That Prove Guns Save Lives

guns save lives

In a nation that already has more than 200 million guns, gun control does little other than make the work of rapists, robbers, murderers and nuts like Adam Lanza easier. When faced with gun control laws, the law abiding citizen has no choice other than to disarm or become an outlaw, but people with bad intentions are faced with no such moral dilemma. That’s why the best friend of a rapist or a potential Adam Lanza is the gun control advocate who’s working tirelessly to insure that his targets can’t adequately defend themselves.

Why Greece Won’t Pay


For almost six years Greece has been on the cusp of financial disaster. Its Northern European and international creditors have extended loans, suspended interest payments and forgiven some debt.

But European lenders have also stubbornly kept to the old-fashioned principle that debtors freely borrowed their money from lenders, and therefore most borrowed money must be paid back, regardless of the current financial status of the debtors.

DISTURBING: Why the TSA Allowed Security Officials on Terror Watchlists to Be Hired…

 The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been heavily criticized over the years for a wide array of practices and missteps. But the latest report from the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security shows perhaps one the TSA’s greatest problems.

The TSA failed to identify at least 73 airport employees who were “linked to terrorism.” According to the Inspector General’s report:

“[O]ur testing showed that TSA did not identify 73 individuals with terrorism-related category codes. According to TSA data, these individuals were employed by major airlines, airport vendors, and other employers.”

The report’s findings claim that the TSA “acknowledged” specific individuals who fall under the terrorism-related category codes “represented a potential transportation security threat.”

In addition, the report alluded to why the TSA failed to identify the potential terrorists:

“This occurred because TSA is not authorized under current interagency watchlisting policy to receive certain terrorism-related category codes as part of the watchlist extract they used for vetting.”

The specific terrorism-related category codes were redacted from the report, as well as the identities of the individuals who posed a potential threat to airport security.

Source: DHS OIG analysis of NCTC matching results

The TSA also attempted to address the lapses in vetting and security. In 2014, the TSA Administrator signed a memo to “partially address” the weakness in security and vetting protocols.

Current airport policies rely on individuals to “self-report disqualifying crimes.” But if the individuals do self-report, they pose a risk of being terminated from their job.

The TSA has had a string of bad press lately. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that Melvin Carraway, the Acting Administrator for the TSA, had been reassigned after it was discovered that undercover agents successfully carried fake weapons through security checkpoints.


A Marine Sacrificed His Life to Save His Brothers in Arms (and Receives his Honors only 11 Years Later)

While attempting to clear a house in Iraq in 2004, 25-year-old Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta was shot and mortally wounded. Insurgents then threw a grenade into the house, and Peralta grabbed it and pulled it to his body, shielding his brothers in arms from the bulk of the blast.

His comrades hailed him as a hero. Staff Sgt. Adam Morrison, who was there when it happened, told the Orange County Register:

“Because of Rafael Peralta, I’m here today.”

Although the Navy and Marine Corps initially recommended him for a Medal of Honor due to his heroic actions, it was denied by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in 2008 and others since, NBC News reports.

Image Credit: Screenshot/YouTube

Image Credit: Screenshot/YouTube

Why? It was suggested that Peralta was “too injured” to know what he was doing:

The decision came after the inspector general of the Defense Department fielded a complaint and Gates assembled a team of experts that recommended the highest honor be denied.

Peralta’s family fought the decision for seven years. Now, while he may not be getting the Medal of Honor, his heroic actions are finally receiving some much-deserved recognition.

On Monday, his family posthumously accepted the Navy Cross at Camp Pendleton, according to Fox News.

Image Credit: Screenshot/YouTube

Image Credit: Screenshot/YouTube

The award citation recognizes the Marine’s heroism:

While attempting to maneuver out of the line of fire, Sgt. Peralta was shot and fell mortally wounded. After the initial exchange of gunfire, the insurgents broke contact, throwing a fragmentation grenade as they fled the building.

The grenade came to rest near Sgt. Peralta’s head. Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Sgt. Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away.

The Orange County Register notes that Peralta has been the recipient of other honors and awards, including having a U.S. Navy Destroyer named after him, and receiving a Purple Heart and a Combat Action Ribbon.


Unbelievable: Vladimir Putin targets TheBlaze

The New York Times published a mind-blowing story Tuesday about Russia’s Internet Research Agency, a propaganda tool of the Kremlin that would spread disinformation and pro-Putin messages all over the web. While the story is shocking enough on its own, the really interesting piece comes from how one source describes their attacks on TheBlaze.

Reporter Adrien Chen spoke to a former member of the troll factory, Ludmila Savchuk. Here’s a snippet of The New York Times story exposing Russia’s troll factory.

Every day at the Internet Research Agency was essentially the same, Savchuk told me. The first thing employees did upon arriving at their desks was to switch on an Internet proxy service, which hid their I.P. addresses from the places they posted; those digital addresses can sometimes be used to reveal the real identity of the poster. Savchuk would be given a list of the opinions she was responsible for promulgating that day. Workers received a constant stream of “technical tasks” — point-by-point exegeses of the themes they were to address, all pegged to the latest news. Ukraine was always a major topic, because of the civil war there between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian Army; Savchuk and her co-workers would post comments that disparaged the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, and highlighted Ukrainian Army atrocities. Russian domestic affairs were also a major topic.

In addition to spreading propaganda about the Ukrainian crisis, Savchuk also left positive messages about Putin and the Russian economy on stories about the collapse of the Russian ruble.

The Agency created content for almost every social media network, as well as comments on popular news websites…including TheBlaze.

Chen reports:

The only person I spoke with who worked in the English department was a woman named Katarina Aistova. A former hotel receptionist, she told me she joined the Internet Research Agency when it was in a previous, smaller office. I found her through the Anonymous International leak, which included emails she had sent to her bosses, reporting on the pro-Putin comments she left on sites like The Blaze and Politico. One of her assignments had been to write an essay from the point of view of an average American woman.

After reading the story on radio, Glenn felt like America should look at this like a “shark bump”, a warning and a test to see how far the people can be pushed.

“We’ve always done disinformation.  They’re very good at disinformation.  And disinformation makes you not trust the news.  Not trust the legitimate sources.  So you don’t know what to believe anymore,” Glenn said.

“And I think there’s a couple of things that are happening.  One, just by discrediting Twitter, Facebook, the Internet, where you just don’t know who it is, that’s the way most of us are getting our news now, is on the internet,” he explained. “It just undermines credibility.  It undermines faith in one another in what you can and cannot trust.”

“This is a shark bump.  This is early now.  When you give us another year of this kind of atmosphere, you ratchet it up…you can escalate this country so fast.  Then you have the outside.  You have the Russians doing something like this.  No one will believe it.  It will be too late.  You’ll burn a city down.  You won’t stop it,” Glenn said.

While the disinformation strategy for a digital age was incredibly fascinating, Glenn said this type of campaign has been done before.

“There’s no difference between what he’s doing to us and what Cass Sunstein recommended that our own government do to us.  This is what Cass Sunstein said we should do.  The government should set up a disinformation and go to sites like the  He didn’t use that.  But go to sites and pretend to be one of them and just start throwing firebombs,” Glenn said.