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Tule River Indian Tribe declares water shortage after Tropical Storm Hilary

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PORTERVILLE, Calif. – A thunderstorm brought on by Tropical Storm Hilary filled the Tule River with debris and caused a power outage on the Tule River Indian Reservation. The tribe declared an emergency after the reservation’s water treatment system failed.

Tribal leaders say that during the storm on Aug. 19, there was no way to filter the river – the tribe’s main source of water.

“It was kind of the perfect storm with everything that went wrong at once,” said Kenneth McDarment, a member of the tribal council. “It put the whole upper reservation out of water for about four days.”

About 400 homes on the reservation were left without access to clean water. According to the council, the emergency, which was declared a day after the storm, will be ongoing until the river is clear enough to run through the treatment system. Until then, residents have been traveling to the nearby city of Porterville to fill their water tanks.

“The water in the river is still brown at this point,” McDarment said. “We've been checking it on a daily basis to see if we can get the river water going.”

Established in 1873, the reservation is home to a range of Indigenous peoples, including the Tachi-Yokuts, Mono, Navajo and Chumash tribes.

This story is part of the Central Valley News Collaborative, which is supported by the Central Valley Community Foundation with technology and training support by Microsoft Corp.

Esther Quintanilla reports on diverse communities for KVPR through the Central Valley News Collaborative, which includes The Fresno Bee, Vida en el Valle, KVPR and Radio Bilingüe.