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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Slab City faces water crisis

Many boondockers are well-familiar with Slab City, dubbed one of Southern California's "last truly free places." What? You've never heard of it? Well, the short-description of "the slabs," as the place is also known, is a huge area, formerly a Marine base, tucked away east of the Salton Sea. It's known as Slab City, because when the Marines left, they took just about everything but the large concrete slabs that mark the footprints of the old base buildings.

Today, "slabbers," call this vast stretch of desert home, and each winter, RVers by the tons come and join them, squatting for free at Slab City. But that all may come to a halt, due to water. Actually, the lack thereof.

Like the rest of much of California, Slab City is in the middle of the big drought. There hasn't been a regular source of drinking water on the slabs since the Marines abandoned the site, but squatters and visitors could always rely on the Chamber of Commerce in the nearby bustling metropolis of Niland to allow free fill-ups at the office water tap. Sad to say, the free water tap is closed. Other sources in town are likewise drying up, and water is getting pretty scarce.

For visiting RVers, this matter is simply more of a "make better plans" issue. If you plan on visiting the slabs, be sure to come in with plenty of drinking water, or plan on making a trip out to Calpatria, or even Brawley, 20 minutes of road time or more, one way, to fill up again.

For more "permanent" residents of the slabs, this could turn into a disaster. Many of the folks who call Slab City a year-around home, are there, often not out of a great deal of choice, but out of need. Look to see homeless veterans, disabled folks, and some whose health conditions have tossed them a tough bone to gnaw on. Yes, there's water that can be drawn from a nearby canal, but without appropriate (and safe) equipment to treat the water, health problems for those who drink it are a sure bet.

We've reached out to the Niland Chamber of Commerce for their comments, but as of press time, haven't heard back. Will update you when (and if) we get more information.

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  1. Many of you have probably seen the blue vinyl water bladder sold at Camping World that holds 45 gallons that would help with this problem of transporting water. If you want a larger capacity bladder to carry in your truck bed like I did, contact New World Mfg. in Cloverdale, CA. They make the one for Camping World and will make custom sizes for you direct. I had them make me a 90 gal. bladder to fit the space between my fifth wheel hitch and the front wall of the truck bed, side to side. When full it rises about 12 inches. When unused I fold it up and store it in my RV basement. It was $165 3 years ago and they even used a 50% thicker vinyl for extra protection. They'll put in any number of fill and drain holes you want and put them wherever you want on the bladder. It's a very small company with few employees but they're super nice. I just told her the width and length I wanted to fit the truck bed and how many gallons capacity I wanted and she told me what height it would be when full. A tip!!! If you want the bladder to fit snuggly in the truck bed add 3-4 inches to the width and length because the bladder dimensions shrink as the bladder fills up and the sides pull in.

  2. RV's have always been able to fill at Chamber of Commerce and still can do so. RV dump is $10 with non-potable water then pull ahead to potable water included. Buckshot Restaurant gives water to customers. There are also 2 vending machines in town for bottles and a large vending machine in Calipatria, 7 miles south of here. There is plenty of water. Just, as always, you have to go get it.