If you live in California then you are constantly reminded that we are in a water crisis. Most of us think of that crisis as a shortage problem, but for many California residents it is much more. Usually thought of as an exclusively ‘third-world’ health hazard, a contaminated water supply is an ongoing problem plaguing communities in California, especially in the Eastern Coachella Valley where KDI has our first US-based project. A recent NY Times article has brought attention to this important water issue describing the contamination problem in the unincorporated Latino communities of the Central Valley (a community similar to the Coachella Valley).
Contamination, the result of chemical fertilizers, animal wastes, pesticides and other pollutants, seeps into the groundwater over time eventually infiltrating tap water. This affects rural communities that are predominantly small, disadvantaged and overlooked. In the Central Valley, one in five residents lives below the federal poverty line. Many residents end up spending close to 10 percent of their income on water, due to the weekly purchase of five gallon containers of water used for drinking, cooking and cleaning.
Fortunately, there are some great organizations working with these communities. CRLA – California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (http://www.crla.org/) is a non-profit legal services organization that provides free legal assistance and outreach programs for individuals and communities that make up California’s rural poor. CRLA is one of the many organizations involved in advocating for policy change surrounding rural health and clean water access.
Because of the hard work of CRLA and other like-minded organizations things are starting to look up! There has been some hopeful news: recently, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Human Right to Water bill, which mandates that state agencies make clean water a priority. It establishes the right of all people to clean and affordable water for consumption and sanitation. This new law is definitely an exciting development. The government is beginning to recognize that communities have a right to clean water. Yet, there is still a lot of work to be done throughout California, especially in the Eastern Coachella Valley where many residents are not connected to municipal water and sewage infrastructure, and water is contaminated with high levels of arsenic. Part of this work will involve the implementation of the Human Right to Water bill and making sure that state agencies are addressing clean water issues in the communities that need it most.
Thanks for reading,
Links to referenced articles: http://tcenews.calendow.org/blog/ten-years-is-too-long-to-wait-for-clean-water http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/us/tainted-water-in-california-farmworker-communities.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&hp