When a Town Runs Dry

The past five years have been among the driest in California history. The drought is changing communities across this agricultural center in the heart of California. Farmers have pumped so much water underneath the state

In a small town called Stratford, a man named Charles whose family has been farming for decades sighs as he looks out the window. For years he has watched as the acres of uncultivated land have grown significantly. El Niño should have brought much needed relief, but never came.

“Welcome to Stratford Elementary, the happiest school on earth,” booms principal Bilbo’s voice as it echoes over the barren streets of Stratford California. Across town, the clanging of the flag pole near the local post office is the only sound as residents slowly trickle in and out to collect their mail. A few that morning will push open the door of Hardin’s, one of the three local stores left at Main Street. Once a full service grocery, Mahmud the Yemeni store owner still stocks dry goods, but mostly now sells sodas, chips and cigarettes.

A man named Angel, who grew up in Stratford, reminisces about the days when the rivers were so filled with water and from time to time you had to worry about the flood alerts.

The people of Stratford remember the thriving days of their little town, and lie in wait with hopes that those days will return. But each year that goes by with little to no rainfall makes that harder to imagine. Meanwhile, the future of this once vibrant community dangles by a thread as its local economy dwindles and residents contemplate leaving everything behind to start over somewhere else.

  • Credits
  • Directed by
  • Joris Debeij
  • Cinematography by
  • Isaac Bauman
  • Produced by
  • Joris Debeij
  • Executive Producer
  • Emmanuel Vaughan Lee
  • Edited by
  • Adam Loften
  • Music Composed by
  • Ari Balouzian
  • Sound Designed by
  • Zino van Hamersveld