Residents in drought-stricken California whose wells have gone dry will soon get help from key state agencies under an order Gov. Jerry Brown signed Friday.
The executive order provides money to buy drinking water for residents, while also directing officials to work with counties and local agencies to find solutions for the shortages. California is in the grips of its third dry year. In January, the governor declared a drought emergency.
Officials throughout the state's Central Valley farming region report pockets of homes where private wells have gone dry, but nobody formally keeps a tally. Officials in the Tulare County town of East Porterville estimate as many as 290 dry wells, and countywide that figure is more than 400.
Brown's order will make money available to counties that apply through the California Disaster Assistance Act. It additionally extends the state's prohibition on price gouging during an emergency.
H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance, said there is no dollar amount attached to the order, which will depend on how many counties apply for assistance. The state will reimburse up to 75 percent of what each county spends, Palmer said.
The order follows Brown's signature on Tuesday to legislation overhauling the state's management of its groundwater supply, bringing it in line with other states that have long regulated their wells.
The order addressing dry wells calls for the combined efforts of the State Water Resources Control Board, the Department of Water Resources and the Governor's Offices of Emergency Services and Planning and Research.