With less than 100 days' water in storage, rural California town grow anxious about future

The Associated Press

In this photo taken Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, a warning buoy sits on the dry, cracked bed of Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, Calif. Despite recent spot rains The reservoir is currently only about 37 percent full. California remans in the midst of an historic drought causing Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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Ron Owens, a spokesman for the state public health department, said officials are helping struggling towns like Willits identify other water options, like connecting with other water systems if need be. It also has some emergency funding available.

Meantime, officials say people in the bucolic town seem to be following the mandatory conservation orders.

Even the coin-operated car wash is only offering recycled water.

"We have been rationing severely. No plants get watered. That's over. Turned off the toilet. I haven't washed my hair for two weeks," said Willits resident Andrea Onstad, who was washing her car Monday afternoon.

A few blocks down at Gribaldo's diner on the city's Main Street, customers sat at tables with no water glasses. A sign on the wall warned of the drought emergency — water was only available upon request.

The water shortage has changed everything for people in Willits — even how they spend their free time at home.

At Jim Harden's house, his lawn is splotched with brown spots, and empty flower pots usually stuffed with colorful annuals are stacked high. He's even unhooked his drip irrigation system.

"We're very concerned. If we totally run out of water, what are we going to do? Go to another community?" Harden, 78, said, standing in his small greenhouse. "It's frightening."

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Jason Dearen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/JHDearen

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