Dry California Tourist Town for Guests:’Save’ | Work

Mendocino, CA (AP) — Thousands of tourists gather in the coastal town of Mendocino in search of Victorian homes and cliff trails, but this summer’s visitors are public portable toilets and picket fences. I’m finding the signboard. Save water. “

The hotel closed the bathroom in the lobby and residents stopped watering the garden at the foggy outpost about 150 miles (240 km) north of San Francisco.

Mendocino’s water problem came here when Fort Bragg, a major backup water supplier, a few miles north, notified authorities that it had significantly reduced its drinking water reserves after the Noyo River hit a record low. It got worse in a few weeks. It will flow in decades.

“This is a real emergency,” said Ryan Rhodes, director of the Mendocino Community Services District, which assists in water management of the town’s aquifers.

Eric Hillsland and his wife usually didn’t have to buy water to provide Alegria Inn with 10 oceanfront beds and breakfasts until late July or August. However, the property began pumping a small amount of water earlier in the year and by February ordered 3,500 gallons (13 kiloliters) a week.

The couple then stopped watering the garden and switched from glass to paper plates to serve welcome cookies. They plan to start using microfiber bed linen, which requires less water to wash.

“We also recognize the seriousness of our water scarcity and ask our guests not to take the large showers they may be accustomed to at home,” Hillesland said.

Mendocino relies on groundwater accessed through a network of about 400 private wells, many of which were manually dug when the old factory town was established in the 1850s. Residents and business owners store water in several water-containing storage tanks above the historic Redwood water tower.

The town has about 1,000 inhabitants, but its economy depends on about 2,000 people visiting each day during the peak of the tourist season from May to October, Rhoades said.

Companies traditionally had to carry water in the fall. However, after the second dry winter, many had to order much earlier than before.

There were few visitors last year when townspeople began to notice that their well production was declining due to pandemics and stay-at-home orders. Today, the weekend vacation destinations for people in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area are full of guests.

As a result, residents and business owners needed to find a source of drinking water farther away, doubling the price of water. Some restaurants have reduced business hours to reduce costs.

In February, Hillsland paid $ 300 for a delivery of 3,500 gallons. It now costs $ 600.

If it gets worse and they have to start closing the room, “then we’re in a situation like the beginning of a pandemic — no income, but still a lot of mortgages and insurance,” he said. rice field.

Many long-term solutions are being considered, including carrying water by barge, plane, or train, adding a community storage tank that can hold up to 500,000 gallons (1,900 kiloliters), or asking the US National Guard or Army Corps of Engineers to install it. It has been. It captures mobile desalination equipment and even fog. But they are all expensive, and the town will need state and federal support, Rhodes said.

The company, which developed a new technology to capture the water in the fog, proposed to set up a free test site in Mendocino and sell the water to the community. However, Rhoades said the infrastructure would affect the beautiful scenery of the town and it would be difficult to get a permit. Desalination plants face similar permits and environmental hurdles.

“Transporting water that has been treated and is known from inland water sources may be a faster solution, even if it is expensive,” he said.

Robert Pinoli, president of the Mendocino Railroad, which runs the historic Skunk Train, said he was ready to help. Since 1885, trains have been running from Willitz through the Redwood Forest and river canyons to Fort Bragg.

Pinoli said he could quickly find a tank car, attach it to a locomotive, and deliver up to 200,000 gallons (760 kiloliters) in a single trip. He identified the source of tank cars in 2015 when Fort Bragg was short of water and considered purchasing inland water for transport to the coast. After it rained, authorities scratched those plans.

If Willitz decides to sell water and Fort Bragg wants to buy it, “we’re a logical way to transport water on a fairly large scale,” he said. ..

Willitz officials have recently decided to oppose selling water to dry towns.

For now, Mendocino residents rely on people like Bryan Clark, who sell water from wells outside the town and truck it. Clark said he couldn’t keep up with demand.

“I’m really hiding from the phone, because I’m receiving far more calls than water, and I’m hearing from people I’ve never met or heard, so I can’t help them.” He says. Said.

Clark, a longtime resident, said Mendocino has not had such a water storage problem since the 1970s when California faced the most severe drought on record.

The county authorities’ short-term solutions include exemption from the permit requirement for storage tanks capable of holding up to 5,000 gallons (19 kiloliters), and identification of wells with excess water near Mendocino. Authorities are also asking the state to help fund larger civilian tanks, according to Rhoades.

“I want to allow the inhabitants to still store more water, but their wells are still somewhat productive, but they can achieve that in the next four months. And if they have to buy water, you get the most value for your money, “he said.


Rodriguez reported from San Francisco.

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