While most Californians enjoy the convenience of having water to drink, cook and clean, many communities, including the small underrepresented communities in California’s San Joaquin Valley, face water scarcity challenges. In Fairmead, CA, an unincorporated community 12 miles north of Madera, CA, there are approximately 1,400 residents, with 200 residents connected to the community well and the remaining residents on domestic private wells. Though demographics have shifted, Fairmead continues to be a predominantly community of color. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Fairmead was primarily African American. Today, the community is approximately 70% Hispanic and 7% African American.
The community of Fairmead was hard hit by the last statewide drought which lasted between 2012 and 2016. To this day, Fairmead continues to experience the impacts of declining groundwater levels. Victoria “Vickie” Ortiz and her family experienced first-hand the water challenges exacerbated by the most recent drought. In the summer of 2016, Vickie’s well went dry for over a year and a half. Unfortunately, this did not come as a surprise, as many of her neighbors with shallow wells had also gone dry. A growing demand of water for crop irrigation, coupled with the drought, led to groundwater overdraft.