Drought and peak irrigation season causes Butte County wells to go dry

Jul 17, 2014 7:22 PM by Brian Johnson

Wells are going dry in South Chico and other parts of Butte County.

That's according to Butte County officials, homeowners Action News Now spoke with, and well-service providers.

"The water level dropped down, so all of a sudden there was no water in the house," said George Boutrus, a South Chico resident who lives on Sega Drive.

Boutrus wasn't alone, because he said three other homes in this South Chico neighborhood saw their wells go dry this week.

Luckily, his well is deep enough that yesterday, G&S Pump Service simply had to put in a new pump, and drop it 60 feet to get his water pressure back to normal.
"Basically the water tables are falling everywhere," said Steve Gwathney, Owner of G&S.

Gwathney said he went on a call earlier this week where the customer's water level dropped 30 feet overnight.
"Nobody's ever seen that in the North State. Nobody's ever seen anything like this."

And his phone is ringing off the hook, averaging 75-100 calls a day. He said about half are residential, the other half agricultural (usually during this time of the year he said it's 95% residential, and 5% agricultural).

Butte County is also getting some calls, but they'd like to hear more about well problems going on in the county.
"From the county perspective, what's going on out there, where are the problems, how does that line up with how we understand where the basin is and the groundwater situation," said Butte County Water Resources Scientist Dr. Christina Buck.

Gwathney said the situation is bleak, as water levels drop and then stay there, then drop again.

"This is not going to get any better," said Gwathney. "Even with an El Nino year, the reality is we have a lot of agriculture and a lot of people. That's not changing. The only thing that can change is how we distribute the water."

And all we can hope for is more rain to recharge the aquifer...to reduce well-water dependence.
But in the meantime, the county said fixing your well can be a costly process.

Boutrus said his well-work set him back $3,000.
"In one sense it's kind of free, right?" Boutrus said. "You don't have to pay every month for water. But then you get hit with something like this and it becomes an issue."
G&S does well maintenance, but say they still receive about three calls a day looking for well-drilling services.

They said the timing on that is bleak as well, as there's a three to six month wait for drilling residential wells, and anywhere from six months to two years for agricultural wells.

Click here for the form county officials would like you to fill out should you have a well problem due to historically low water tables and this never-ending drought. They're tracking where problems are occurring, and how big of an impact this drought will ultimately have.


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