Michael and Rochelle Noblett look over the new water well they recently had installed for nearly $30,000 when their previous well ran dry, on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. In the 1990s the Nobletts built a home on graze land in Madera County to raise their kids and retire. At the height of the drought a large farming operation began growing thousands of trees with huge, deep wells taking up much of the water and lowering the water table considerably.


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Good morning, and welcome to the Fresnoland Lab newsletter. Today is Saturday, Oct. 10.

This week in Fresnoland, Dayana’s “Behind the Mask” series explores what it’s like to be pregnant and give birth during COVID-19.

It’s Monica Vaughan, water and development reporter for Fresnoland, here.

As a journalist who has reported in rural parts of California for the better part of a decade, I’ve written a fair share of water stories, particularly about California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

To be honest, it wasn’t really until I was hired by Fresnoland to focus on drinking water that I began to truly understand the potential impact of the law to domestic wells, on which thousands of people rely.

Domestic wells aren’t regulated by the state, and they’re hardly regulated by county governments. So to understand the issues residents on those wells are facing, I asked for their stories by circulating a survey for private well users.

I heard from people who are terrified their well will go dry within months. I also heard from people who suspect their water is unsafe to drink.

And, I heard from people like Rochelle Noblett who already shelled out thousands of dollars to drill deeper and deeper wells because the water level dropped after almond orchards “as far as the eye can see” were planted nearby, in the midst of the drought.

I looked deeper into the issue and learned that hundreds of well owners in Madera County face the same fate as Rochelle, and water agencies don’t plan to reduce pumping anytime soon. Why? Because it would reduce revenue for the agriculture industry.

Read the story here. And if you have thoughts or suggestions on what I should look into next, please contact me directly at mvaughan@fresnobee.com

And now, the week’s top reads:

(For the most recent local coronavirus updates, visit www.fresnobee.com/coronavirus.)

Hundreds of thousands of California residents who were unemployed at the start of September will receive a supplemental $300 payment from the federal government, but they are likely to not receive such supplemental benefits for a long time. Fresno Bee

City won’t offer handouts to Amazon if it comes to Visalia Industrial Park. Visalia Times-Delta

Proposition 25 would end cash bail. So why are some progressive groups against it? KQED

California will keep burning. But housing policy is making it worse. ProPublica

Yelp is letting customers know when a business has been “accused of racist behavior.” Fresno Bee

A two-year project aims to provide more opportunities for Latinas. The “Unseen Latinas Initiative” will address economic and educational disparities impacting Latinas, who represent one in every five Californians. Sacramento Bee

Some of the new laws signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month introduced measures requiring smaller employers to offer paid family leave as well as rules to compel businesses to provide more demographic information to help the state identify pay disparities for women and people of color. Sacramento Bee

Advocates are concerned that the U.S. Census Bureau is undercounting because of increasing homelessness as a result of the pandemic. Washington Post

The strict immigration rules instituted by the Trump administration are expected to have long-lasting effects on the U.S. economy. Los Angeles Times

The National Institutes of Health awarded $3.7 million in grants to the University of California, Davis, to expand testing for COVID-19 among Central Valley farmworkers. Fresno Bee

The state is requiring counties with more than 106,000 residents to reduce coronavirus infections in the hardest hit places where the poor — Black people, Latinos and Pacific Islanders –live, before being permitted to reopen their economies further. Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a handful of accountability measures that are designed to reduce police violence. Sacramento Bee

A new law, Assembly Bill 979, signed by Gov. Newsom, requires public corporations headquartered in California to appoint minority or LGBTQ directors to their boards of directors. Sacramento Bee

Millions of Americans across the country are facing the prospect of potential utility shut-offs and fast-growing debts they may never be able to repay because of the economic devastation of the pandemic. Washington Post

The U.S. government officials tried to intimidate the Merced County Public Health Department staff into keeping Foster Farms’ Livingston plant open, despite a serious outbreak of COVID-19. Fresno Bee

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