A huge well pumps water for thousands of trees planted at the height of the drought in Madera County. Residents are outraged that the farming operation has been allowed to continue lowering the water table in an area already plagued with water issues and land subsidence.

ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

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Good morning, and welcome to the Fresnoland Lab newsletter. Today is Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020.

This week in Fresnoland, Monica reported on the air quality forecast through the Thanksgiving holiday. Dayana wrote about the 7-Eleven planned in southeast Fresno, despite community opposition.

It’s Monica Vaughan, Water and Development reporter for Fresnoland, here.

It’s easy to understand why people who rely on private wells for their water can feel powerless about the future of their supply — wells pump water from underground aquifers shared by many neighbors.

They depend on each other to manage the shared resource.

Sometimes, those neighbors include industrial-sized water users who pump water out of the ground faster than an aquifer can replenish.

Just a few days ago, I received an email from a Madera County resident about her well, and it illuminated what poor groundwater management can mean for a household.

I could feel her emotions as I read.

“I live in a rural area and rely on a private well,” a homeowner in Madera County wrote. “However, my neighbors are farmers and have a small almond orchard and probably use groundwater to water their orchard.

“I am currently having to lower my well. I feel because of their pumping during the summer months, it’s caused my water table to go below normal. I feel farmers’ [water] should be metered because they don’t care anymore how much they pump.

“I have been here since 1967. I’m now forced to lower my well, and I am low income as well. This is not fair. They need to set limits.”

The homeowner told me she hasn’t paid anyone to drill yet, but expects it will cost around $20,000, which “at this time, I do not have.”

Often when we read or talk about the future of water in the Valley, the topic is agriculture, or the economy or an ambiguous concept of “sustainability.”

More and more, when I think about the future of water in the Valley I think about the woman who emailed me.

In our email exchange, I told her about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), and I let her know that she can tell state water officials what she thinks should be done by submitting a comment to the state about the groundwater sustainability plan in her area.

You can tell water officials what you think too. Here is a guide on how to comment on groundwater sustainability plans.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, the SGMA law “empowers communities to take control of managing local water groundwater resources.”

The homeowner who reached out to me hadn’t heard of it.

She has now. And I’m guessing she’ll let the decision makers know what she thinks. We’ll see if they listen.

And now, the week’s top reads:

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

Housing, Transportation, and Land Use

When the manager of the Tower Gas & Mini Mart in Fresno started recording the homeless traffic passing through the store on East Olive Avenue, he simply wanted to showcase some of the personalities that he was encountering for his TikTok account. He could not have imagined that his video of homeless people would go viral. Fresno Bee

Despite a recently announced $62 million for counties to move the homeless into permanent housing or to extend hotel leases that were part of “Project Roomkey” and prevent people from returning to the streets in colder weather, some counties in California are trying to end a program that has moved homeless people into hotel rooms during the coronavirus pandemic. Business Journal

Blacks and Latinos in California are more likely to experience housing hardship and face eviction and homelessness, according to a UCLA report found. “There are huge racial disparities among those behind on their payments,” the report read. Sacramento Bee

Dozens of California Highway Patrol officers forcibly removed homeless people who had “reclaimed” vacant, publicly owned homes in El Sereno, the night before Thanksgiving, amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.The officers were met by a wave of protesters, who shouted, “Shame on you!” as authorities moved from door to door removing those who had moved into the homes. Los Angeles Times

Economy and Neighborhood Inequality

For the second year in a row, Fresno County is still the highest-grossing ag county. Fresno Bee

Farm jobs in the central San Joaquin Valley down 20% from this time last year, according to new data. Hanford Sentinel

Fresno County saw record voter turnout in the 2020 election. Here’s how many cast ballots. Fresno Bee

Experts say it is likely that there’s more hunger in the United States today than at any point since 1998, when the Census Bureau began collecting comparable data about households’ ability to get enough food. This is because of the economic downturn, and compounded by government relief programs that expired or will terminate at the end of the year. Washington Post

Water and Air Quality

The fires sweeping across millions of acres in California are filling the lungs of California’s children with smoke, with potentially grave effects over the course of their lives. An estimated 7.6 million children are exposed to wildfire smoke every year in the U.S. and with climate change, many more children stand to be at risk. New York Times

Here’s what the water sector wants from President-elect Biden and Congress. Water and Finance Management

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