Tule River Tribe declares a water shortage emergency

The tribe wants congressional leaders and the Biden administration to help find a long-term solution.

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Thursday, August 24, 2023
Tule River Tribe declares a water shortage emergency
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The Tule River Tribe has declared a water shortage emergency.

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Tule River Tribe has declared a water shortage emergency.

The tribe has been facing a clean water shortage for almost a week.

Tule River leaders say a lighting strike knocked the power out and impacted this water plant last week leaving hundreds of locals without clean water. In an already stressed system.

The murky river water is making it impossible for locals to use 60% of their water supply.

A little higher at about 1,400 feet in elevation, the water at Painted Rock dam is also dirty.

Without a working filtration system, which leaders say was impacted by the lighting strike power outage, close to 400 homes at the reservation have very limited or no access to clean water.

For a week, employees have been driving into Porterville to fill up water tanks and bring them up to the reservation.

"It's stressful, we're worried about our little ones and our elders, especially with heat, they only have evaporated coolers, and without the water we can't even operate our own buildings," said Tribal Council Chairman Neil Peyron.

The Tule River Reservation is under an emergency declaration with severe water restriction.

The lack of water almost shut down the local clinic.

"They don't have water they can't sanitize and it almost shut down the facility for our residents and all the people they serve in Tulare county," mentioned Peyron.

Tribal leaders say the lack of clean water could be tied to a couple of problems - either a mudslide or ash runoff from the debris of the Windy Fire back in 2021.

"With all the storms that hit us, with all that rain that came all at once, that's what caused the dirty runoff into the rivers and streams," said Tribal councilmember Kenneth McDarmet.

Local leaders say the river could clear up in about three days.

For now, their 1,400 residents have to utilize resources like these porta-potties and live off of the pallets and tanks of water delivered to the reservation.

The tribe says they aren't losing hope and will continue navigating these challenging times.

Part of their efforts includes Senate Bill 4870, called the Tule River Tribe Reserve Water Rights Settlement Act of 2022.

The bill, which is still in the Senate, includes a $570 million water rights settlement.

Tribal leaders say the funds would help build better water infrastructure, including a reservoir.

Senate Bill 4870 is still in the senate.

To learn more about the bill, click here.

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