California tourist town running out of water amid drought

The historic California town of Mendocino is running out of water, as the wells the tourist town depends on are drying up amid a devastating drought. 

The Alegria Inn is paying to truck in water so its guests can shower. “Right now it costs $600 for 3,500 gallons, and that’s lasting us a week,” said Eric Hillesland, who runs the inn. 

To conserve, they douse the flowers with dirty dishwater and are buying lightweight sheets for guest beds. “You can get more of them into one load of wash and you can cut your water use significantly,” Hillesland said. 

Up the street at Café Beaujolais, the dining room is empty three nights a week to save water. Owner Julian Lopez pays about $3,600 a month for water delivery. He said he can’t get more water trucked in because “these towns on the coast are starting to shut off the sale of water.” 

“It’s dire and it’s only getting worse,” town groundwater manager Ryan Rhoades said. 

Rhoades said he’s considering bringing in water by train. For now, the local high school is offering some of its reserves, but Rhoades said it can only provide about one truckload per day. 

Even waitresses are spreading the word about conservation, telling customers to only take what they can drink. 

Outside some businesses, port-a-potties have replaced closed restrooms in an effort to stop flushing away a precious resource. 

“It’s frightening,” Lopez said. “There’s a scenario here where people will run out of water.” 

Mendocino is counting on tourist dollars to pour in after the pandemic — but the question is, how it can handle so many people with so little water?

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