Who's impacted by drought-related private well failures? A Spatial Analysis

Authors: Amanda Fencl*, UC Davis
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Water Resources and Hydrology, Rural Geography
Keywords: drought; vulnerability; domestic water; water security
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Council Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


During the 2012-2016 drought, the state received more 2,500 domestic wells failure reports, the majority of which were in the Central Valley (DWR 2018). This left thousands of people without a reliable source of drinking water for months and in some instances years. The crisis drew national attention and local and state investment and intervention in many communities. The next drought might be just around the corner, pushing farmers and cities to pump more water from the ground again, and risking the primary water source for the estimated 1.44 million Californians that rely on domestic wells for drinking water and household use (Dieter et al. 2018). One of the ways to be better prepared is by strengthening rural drought resilience and identifying who is at risk and vulnerable to experiencing domestic well failure. As part of the recent 2018 #CAWaterDataChallenge, our team put together tool-oriented research that tries to answer three questions, of which one is presented in this paper: Are disadvantaged households disproportionately affected by drought-vulnerable wells? We assign census data to domestic wells and calculate the distance between failed wells and the nearest community water system. About 1.5 times more well failures were reported by households in disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged communities compared to those at or above the Median Household Income (MHI+).

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