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Drought-Stricken Valley Town Gets Hot Showers

Nov 25, 2014

Gilberto Sandoval, 81, lives across the street from the church where the showers are installed.
Credit Ezra David Romro / Valley Public Radio

Drought conditions in parts of Central California have become so harsh that it’s normal to turn on the tap have no coming out.  A few months ago we brought you the story of East Porterville where more than 600 homes are without water because their household wells have dried up. Now, some of the town’s residents will have access to something they haven’t had in months. 

There are 26 units and the busiest time for the showers is during the morning hours before school and work.
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

The last time Gilberto Sandoval took a warm shower was over a month ago.

“I’ve  been without running water for the last three months,” Sandoval says. “ No water whatsoever.”

Sandoval got so desperate that he turned to asking his neighbors for water. He uses the resource for drinking, daily chores and sanitary needs.

“I use one of those store carts, fill it with jugs and walk in either direction asking people will you give me water to take back home,” Sandoval says.

Today is Sandoval’s lucky day. He no longer has to beg for water because the pastor supplied him with cases of drinking water. He also now has the ability to take a hot shower. All he has to do is cross the street.

The Tulare County Office of Emergency Services installed three trailers with 26 temporary showers on them last week at Iglesia Emmanuel church across the street from where Sandoval lives. Each shower is enclosed, has a drying area and is separated by gender. The water for the showers is piped in from the neighboring city of Porterville. The showers are busy early in the morning and at night.

The showers were used sparingly during the first week but have picked up as the word got out about them.
Credit Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

“We recognized as the weather gets colder here in wintertime that folks taking baths and showers using water out of buckets when the ambient temperature was nice that works. It does not work anymore in the winter,” says Andrew Lockman with Tulare County.

The showers are funded through state and federal aid and are the next step in Tulare County’s aim to prevent a greater health scare in the region. Early next year Lockman hopes to begin a household tank program since the drought isn’t showing signs of letting up. Each applicant with a dry well will receive a tank based on household size that they can store potable water in.

But until then, Sandoval and his 2,800 neighbors will use the popup showers.

SANDOVAL: “This program here is a good thing.”

ROMERO: “So you’re going to go get a towel and take a shower?”

SANDOVAL: “I’m  picking up trash in the backyard and then I’m gonna go get a towel and a soap and go into the shower.”

Tulare County plans to run the showers for the next six months, but if the drought persists the showers may stay up even longer.