Small California Town Pays Hefty Price To Drill For Water During California Drought

Published on May 27th, 2015

Cate Cauguiran
May 26, 2015
CBS San Francisco

LA GRANGE, Stanislaus County (KPIX 5) — The small town of La Grange sits right between a lake and a reservoir, still it’s about to run out of water. While they dig for a solution, it comes with a hefty price.

“3 million 200 acre feet of storage, and no access to water, it feels really weird,” said Peter Kampa of the Lake Don Pedro Community Services District.

With lake levels at historic lows, and houseboats stacked in parking lots, the town is digging deep for plan “B.”

“Well, this particular well is 300 feet deep,” Kampa said.

And there’s no guarantee it will pay off. “You really have to just keep drilling until you find the right location,” Kampa said.

That’s because finding groundwater here is like finding a needle in a haystack. The foothills are a jumbled mess of granite and volcanic rock, so they can’t just plug into one giant aquifer, they have to hit the sweet spots.

“You can have a channel, a crack. Just like you’d be looking at a big boulder in Yosemite, and you can see a crack in it, that’s what’s occurring 300 feet underground and you’ve got water flowing through those,” Kampa said.

With some educated guessing, and a little luck, it finally pays off. And this one is a gusher, pumping out more than 150 gallons a minute, but it doesn’t come cheap.

At $12,000 to $15,000 per hole, La Grange is also running out of money.

“We don’t have the cash flow,” Kampa said.

The town is short on cash, and short on time, because the lake will go dry by October. Even if the community can get a handful of wells up and running, they won’t be able to carry this community through another year of drought.

“These are not intended to be long term sources. Put ’em online in October, use ’em through the winter when we’ve got low demand, and hope that the winter replenishes the surface water,” said Kampa.

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