Mendota Suffers Through 3rd Year of Drought

Fresno, CA Thick brush and even trees have taken over a Mendota canal where water once flowed. The canal has gone dry, just like the local economy.

The West Side grocery store doesn't see many customers anymore so it no longer sells fresh meat or dairy products. Store owner and city councilman Joseph Riofrio now rents videos and takes PG&E payments here.

Riofrio said, "People are coming in to pay them and they're telling me they've gone as much as a week to two weeks without electricity. At this time with 100-degree weather and small children in the house that's incredible."

So is a rental sign accepting up to 36 people in a single home. The property owner is targeting farm workers. The latest state figures show the unemployment rate here at 38-percent. You'll find a few workers in some fields but water cutbacks could make it tough for Mendota to keep its title as the cantaloupe capital of the world.

West-side farmer Shawn Coburn said, "You know nobody's working when you drive around the west-side and you go from field to field that's unplanted."

These days you'll find more people basically hanging out around town. Joseph Riofrio said, "Mendota used to be a booming, thriving community especially in the summer time."

Money saved from the summer harvest once carried some families into winter. Now families here wonder where their next meal will come from.

Mendota Mayor Robert Silva said, "Food giveaways is not the answer. The jobs. The water that comes into our area that creates the jobs. That's the number-one issue of my folks. Our folks out there they're proud people. They don't want the giveaways but it's a necessity."

Many in western Fresno County worry these cities are slowly becoming ghost towns.

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