It’s good that Madera County’s public works department is taking care of Parkwood’s immediate water problem. It’s also good that a new well will be drilled so that at least in the near future, Parkwood residents can expect to get water from their taps when they turn them to the “on” position.
The problem being experienced by Parkwood’s residents also will be experienced sooner or later by many more who depend on Madera County’s underground water sources for residential and agricultural water if the drought continues — and even if it doesn’t.
The City of Madera figured this out a few years ago, and began to take measures to avoid the consequences. First, the City Council raised water and sewer utility rates to cover not only the real costs of present service, but to set aside money for expansion and replacement.
Two years ago, the city began installing meters, and now virtually all the city is metered. People are being billed for what they actually use, instead of paying a too-low fee to use all they want and then some. Water use has dropped as a result, which is one of the reasons why the city can supply water to Parkwood in its present pinch.
A few years ago, the county began to mandate that its special districts pay for their own improvements — a service which the county for years had provided from its general fund. This meant that small water districts, such as Parkwood, had to pay their own way. This has led some residents of these districts to wring their hands and cry poor, but one result of that is they have a better understanding of what their utilities, especially water, actually cost.
The county will have to continue this process, or it will find itself having to deal with many more Parkwoods as the water table continues to drop — which experts tell us will happen even if rainfall gets back to normal — a little under a foot a year.
The county’s governments and water districts are forming a joint powers agreement to help in county-wide planning, which is a good thing. But we shouldn’t expect anybody else to pay the price.