When the water level runs low at Eagle Lake, the fate of an entire community hangs in the balance. The tiny community of Spalding, California depends on Eagle Lake, the second largest freshwater lake in the state, for campground visitors, summer home vacationers and, above all, water. Their wells are tied to the lake’s water table. And in California’s historic drought, many of those wells have run dry.
For Robert and Rita Simon, that has meant four months of living in a house with no running water. Robert is a 66-year-old disabled veteran, and Rita has severe arthritis in her hands. She couldn’t help Robert when he made weekly trips to their church, a mile down the road, to haul water in four 40-gallon trash cans. The church normally shuts off the water on November 1st, when temperatures start to drop to the freezing point, but they’ve kept it on late this year because of the dire needs of so many residents. So every week, Robert loaded the trash cans into his SUV by himself and relayed them into his house in five-gallon buckets. “The worst part was washing the clothes,” said Rita, since hoisting the five-gallon bucket was so difficult for her. Robert joked that she didn’t even want to cook anymore because it was too much trouble to wash pans and dishes.
Thankfully, after calling every local and state government office he could find to ask for help, Robert found USDA Rural Development. Cheri Skudlarek, in California’s Redding office, helped Robert and Rita receive a Section 504 Housing Repair Loan and Grant combination for $8,459 to drill a new well. In early November 2014, the crews arrived to start construction, and within a week the water began to flow. The first thing Robert and Rita did was to take hot showers—quick ones, because they’ve learned the importance of water conservation. Although the boat ramp at Eagle Lake is still dry, and there are many more in Spalding who need assistance, Cheri is back in town helping another family, and at the Simons’ at least, the water is back on.