Californians struggle for 'normal life,' without water

Californians struggle for 'normal life,' without water
Maria Jimenez demonstrates how they pump bottled water up to a storage tank on the roof of their rented house to wash in the drought affected town of Monson, California on June 23, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES - A washing machine stands in the middle of Maria Jimenez's California yard, like a redundant relic of modern life. Nearby are several rented mobile toilets, no longer in use.

For four months, she and her family have had no running water.

"We are trying to live a normal life," the 52-year-old told AFP in the town of Monson, 200 miles north of Los Angeles.

Hers is one of a growing number of generally low-income households with no direct access to water in central California's Valley, known as America's food basket, where four years of extreme drought have left many residents high and dry.

Jimenez and her husband use plastic plates and cups in order to save using water for washing the dishes, all the while generating piles of garbage and extra expenses.

To take a shower, they've created an elaborate system that pumps bottled water up to the roof of their rented house and back down to the shower head.

But whenever possible, they try to wash at the homes of friends and family.

Even before the well that supplied their house dried up, they couldn't drink its water, which was polluted with pesticides from nearby fields.

Now they have no water at all, and things aren't likely to change anytime soon.

"We don't have water in a country that is rich," Jimenez's neighbour Laura Garcia said.

Born in Mexico, she recalled how as a girl living in a small village near Guadalajara, she would haul water more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) to her house.

Today, even her childhood hamlet in Mexico has running water.

She doesn't dare tell her family back in Mexico about her situation in the United States.

"They would tell me 'Come home! What are you doing there?'" she said in Spanish.

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