Indian Lakes in water crisis

More than 500 homes in Coarsegold’s Indian Lakes subdivision were placed on Stage 4 emergency water conservation rules last week, meaning all outdoor watering is banned as the county scrambles to keep taps and showers running indoors.

Johannes Hoevertsz, Madera County Public Works Director, said the emergency order is because the main pump completely burned out on well No. 7, the area’s highest-producing well, one of three sources relied on by Indian Lakes after its fourth went dry at the onset of California’s drought.

That leaves the district’s system at 33% of normal capacity as well No. 7 provided 250 gallons of water a minute, while the remaining two produce a combined 230 gallons a minute.

Well No. 7 is drilled deep enough to reach available water, county engineers said, but another of the area’s wells is “breaking suction,” meaning water levels are nearing depths too low to meet the pump.

“This is a sign of the times,” Hoevertsz said as he noted the state’s fourth year of drought contributed to the severity of water issues in Indian Lakes. “We’re putting them on emergency Stage 4, which will help conserve water, number one, and also help us request expedited state funds for repairs.”

Scott Varnado, who lives directly next to well No. 7 on Miwoc Avenue and Cherokee Road, said he’s seen county staff working on the structure for several months due to a leak.

He said even though the ban on outdoor watering, effective Friday, July 24 will likely cause ripples throughout Indian Lakes, he felt it was the right move to conserve as much water as possible.

“This means we all need to tighten our belts,” said Varnado, as he pointed out the front lawn area of his home was brown and completely dried out. “We need to stop watering, we need to take shorter showers, and we need to try and suffer through this until it starts to rain again.”

Sharon Kearney, who’s lived on Cherokee Road for 11 years, said she didn’t mind letting her green lawns die out, though she hoped to keep her trees alive.

“As a community we all have to do our part,” Kearney said. “I don’t want to waste water on my lawn that I’ll need for showers, and to drink. I can give up the dishes though.”

Hoevertsz said he didn’t have estimates for the the well’s repair costs or when it would be back online, but said his staff has immediately started work on applications for state funds.

“We’re working as fast as we can and as diligently as we can,” Hoevertsz said. “This is a serious issue with the system and we’re going to work as quick as possible to get it fixed.”

Fortunately, average times to replace a large-scale well pump can run from two to three weeks, county staff said, though extra time is needed to secure funding then flush and test the system after the new pump is installed.

Hoevertsz said the county will provide notices to everyone in Indian Lakes, as well as use social media and a sheriff’s department reverse-call system to inform residents about the emergency and ask them to limit water use as much as possible.

Under Stage 4, after notices are provided, anyone who waters outdoors in violation of the ban receives a $95 citation for their first infringement, $145 for the second, and $190 on their third offense. Any further violations are subject to a resident’s taps being turned off by the county.

Hoevertsz said though Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino is nearby - less than five miles from Indian Lakes - he didn’t believe the gaming house had anything to do with current problems as it runs on a water system unconnected to the county.

“The casino imports water, and this is happening while the casino isn’t in operation, so I don’t think there’s any legitimacy to it being a cause,” Hoevertsz said. “One option we’ll look at is to maybe tie in Indian Lakes with the casino to provide some water.”

Along with the outdoor watering ban, hot tubs and pools in Indian Lakes can be filled only with water transported from outside areas.

Varnado, who said he did his part in conserving water before Friday’s news, added he’d be complying with that rule as well.

“We were going to hook up our spa,” Varnado said. “Nope. Not any more.”

Details: Madera County Special Districts, (559) 675-7820.