GOLDEN VALLEY, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- You'd be hard pressed to find someone who appreciates water as much as Georgia Hedrick.
"You start to realize how much you need this stuff," Hedrick, 73, said. Last month, with one turn of a faucet, life as she and her husband knew it, stopped. "Air and spits of water came out and I thought, "Ah oh, we're in big trouble,'" Hedrick said.
Hedrick, like many of the neighbors who call rural Golden Valley home, live on independent wells for water. When an inspection of her 118-foot well showed the water level had dropped 10 feet below the pump, the solution seemed simple.
"Oh we'll just drill. We went down to 600 feet and there was no sustainable amount of water and they said you have the deepest well in the valley and it's not producing," Hedrick said.
Days without water, turned to weeks.
"I can't wash clothes because we don't have the washer running and I've been using the same dishwater over and over and I empty it at the end of the day (just) like the toilets, which is not pretty. We just use trash bags," Hedrick said. "I try not to cry too much because I need every drop of water that's in me."
Inevitable tears come from added frustration over why the well has unexplainably gone dry. Since 1990, Hedrick and others on private wells have been paying a monthly charge of roughly $22 to Washoe County for what's called a water recharge program to help declining water levels.
"That monthly charge goes to pay for operation of the system, the electricity to move the water, the maintenance of the system." Dwayne smith, Engineering Director with Washoe County said. "It also goes to the lease of the water rights."
Smith says each well is as independent as the person who owns and maintains it. Private wells may also react differently to geographical factors.
A current map of Golden Valley residential wells shows roughly a third have had to be deepened over the years due to decreasing water tables. "Sometimes residents have challenges with their wells and we've gotten calls from folks that say, 'My well is pumping sand,' or, 'It's not pumping the volume it used to pump,' and so the first thing we recommend is to get a certified well driller to take a look at your actual well," Smith said.
The Hedrick's only resolution from the company that checked her well was to install a 17-thousand gallon storage tank. "It's my husband's IRA cashed out, it's my IRA cashed out, in total. It's all our savings and it is a second mortgage on the house to pay for this. It is upwards of $50,000 to pay for this," Hedrick said.
Smith insists the recharge program is working. "It has been in place since 1990, so it's been in place for 25 years and it has brought value to the residents and that's why we continue to do it, that's why they continue to pay for it because it does bring that value," Smith said.
"I don't know who's being recharged, it is not us and I've paid," Hedrick responded. After five weeks of living off bottled water and showering at a local gym, the tank was installed and the nightmare was over. Hedrick now worries which neighbor's well will go dry, next.
"It's serious, it'll develop and I believe it's serious. Time will tell you. If they say it's just my well, I'm sorry, that's a dream."