More than 1 million Californians are affected by unsafe or
unreliable sources of water for cooking, drinking and bathing.
They can lose access to water supplies when their wells run dry,
especially during drought when groundwater is relied on more
heavily and the water table drops. Employment disruptions caused
by the COVID-19 pandemic can impair their ability to pay water
bills on time. Communities of color are most often burdened by
Below you’ll find the latest news articles raising
awareness on efforts to seek water equity written by the staff at
the Water Education Foundation and other organizations that were
posted in our Aquafornia news aggregate.
State work to improve wildlife habitat and tamp down dust at California’s ailing Salton Sea is finally moving forward. Now the sea may be on the verge of getting the vital ingredient needed to supercharge those restoration efforts – money.
The shrinking desert lake has long been a trouble spot beset by rising salinity and unhealthy, lung-irritating dust blowing from its increasingly exposed bed. It shadows discussions of how to address the Colorado River’s two-decade-long drought because of its connection to the system. The lake is a festering health hazard to nearby residents, many of them impoverished, who struggle with elevated asthma risk as dust rises from the sea’s receding shoreline.
A bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate aims to provide
billions of dollars to improve access to clean water in tribal
lands. One of the senators who introduced the bill, Sen.
Michael Bennet, D-Colo., wrote in the foreword of a report
about tribal water access within the Colorado River Basin that
one estimate states 48% of households within tribal lands lack
clean water or sufficient sanitation.
Rural communities suffering from failing infrastructure and low
capacity often miss out on important funding opportunities
because the methods used by state agencies to determine
eligibility are inadequate for rural forested areas, new study
finds. Pockets of wealth (around a lake shore or golf-course
development, for example) raise the median household income
(MHI), which can mask the poverty of nearby communities.
Members of Siskiyou County’s Hmong community rallied outside
the county courthouse in Yreka on Tuesday over what they say is
racist treatment by police and racist enforcement of water
usage rights by the county. An ordinance passed in May
aimed at curtailing illegal marijuana grows prohibits water
trucks and other vehicles from carrying over 100 gallons of
water on certain county roads. Rally organizers say the roads
selected, primarily in the rural, unincorporated communities of
Butte Valley and Big Springs, unfairly target the Hmong
community who reside there.
Much of the infrastructure talk in Washington these days
focuses on large, complicated projects involving tunnels,
bridges and highways. But there is a much more basic matter
involving infrastructure that also merits attention: the need
to provide clean water to the more than half a million Native
Americans who lack the sort of water and sanitation services
that other Americans take for granted.
– Written by Bidtah Becker, an associate
attorney for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, and Anne
Castle, senior fellow at the Getches-Wilkinson Center for
Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment at the University
of Colorado and former assistant secretary for water and
science at the U.S. Interior Department.
The House on Wednesday approved a bill setting deadlines for
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement drinking
water regulations for so-called forever chemicals.
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly called
PFAS, are widely used, man-made compounds that are found in
manufacturing and consumer products like Scotchguard,
flame-resistant materials, nonstick cooking surfaces and
firefighting foam used on military bases since the 1940s.
One day last month, water in the community of Teviston, about
66 miles south of Fresno, suddenly stopped flowing. The
town’s services office fielded calls from residents who said
their taps ran dry, and when city leaders opened their own
faucets, nothing came out. Soon, officials realized that
the town’s main well had stopped working. … [T]he water
level below the community has been dropping for the last 14
years, and two different wells had already failed.
Racial equity may soon become a guiding principle at a powerful
state agency that helps mediate water disputes and directs
taxpayer investments in troubled Central Valley water systems.
A draft resolution pending before the State Water Resources
Control Board would condemn systemic racism, xenophobia and
white supremacy while committing the agency to making racial
equity, diversity, inclusion and environmental justice central
to its work.
After over a month of transporting water from nearby towns and
delivering bottled water to residents, the rural Tulare County
community of Teviston had running water again Monday.
Teviston’s only well broke down in early June, leaving hundreds
of residents without running water. Teviston Community Services
District board member, Frank Galaviz, said that the well is
“back online” in an interview on Monday with The Bee. … In
total, Teviston residents went without running water for two to
three weeks, said board President Martin Correa.
Marin water managers’ strategy to suspend most new water
service hookups during the historic drought is drawing
criticism from some who say little water will be saved with a
policy that comes at the expense of the county’s poorest
residents. Such a tradeoff would impact everyone from service
workers to businesses to the elderly on fixed incomes, critics
say. … Proponents of the hookup moratoriums say the
county must live within its means with regards to water supply
especially given the uncertainty of how long this drought could
Official estimates of unpaid water and energy bills accumulated
during the pandemic verge on $2.7 billion, affecting a few
million Californians — and those figures have been
growing rapidly. The state has so far prioritized
rent relief — keeping people housed — over utilities
relief. [O]f the $158 million distributed as of July 16, less
than $40,000 had gone to utilities relief. Utility debt makes
up about 6% of all assistance requested so far. On July
11, lawmakers revealed a plan to use one-time federal relief
money to address the debt. … But it doesn’t extend current
shutoff moratoria past Sept. 30.
The shade in Cesar Chavez Plaza provides a refuge for people
during the rising, record-breaking heat in downtown Sacramento.
Staying cool is critical during a heat wave — as is staying
hydrated. But for Sacramento’s over 5,000 unhoused
people, accessing that drinking water isn’t always
straightforward. And while Sacramento has 297 drinking
fountains, they don’t always provide cold water, for
example. Jeffrey Milner, who is unhoused, said he’s
gotten water from people near the downtown library branch and
from people giving away water at Cesar Chavez.
As part of the ongoing initiatives to advance diversity and
equity, Monique Earl has been named to lead the newly-created
Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Los Angeles
Department of Water and Power. Earl will become part of
the senior management team reporting to General Manager Martin
Adams, and will be responsible for the oversight of policies,
practices and programs designed to improve diversity and
opportunities throughout LADWP and position the agency to
better serve communities with the highest needs.
California has a long history of treating public water as a
commodity instead of a human right and entrusting it to
industries that fail to manage it responsibly. Water is a
public trust resource that needs protection. The federal Water
Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability Act would
put water systems back in the hands of the people who depend on
it for life and livelihood. This bill [S. 11] would set aside
$35 billion annually to shore up drinking and wastewater
systems. It would ensure no one lacks access to water because
they can’t afford it. -Written by Alexandra Nagy, California director
for Food & Water Watch.
Radhika Fox vividly remembers growing up in rural India without
running water or flushing toilets. The newly confirmed head of
EPA’s Office of Water lived with her grandmother while her
parents finished their medical training in New York City. “When
the monsoon season came, the roads flooded because they were
mud,” Fox said in a recent interview. “At least our little
village was an oasis unto its own.” Fox said it’s an
“incredible dream and honor” to serve as the first woman of
color in the role of assistant administrator at EPA’s Office of
Water after such “humble beginnings.”
California is answering the call to keep the tap open to
millions of people who have fallen behind on their water bill
payments through a recent $1 billion investment from Gov. Gavin
Newsom. The timely assistance comes amid serious economic
fallout from the pandemic that caused record unemployment and
left 1.6 million households drowning in water debt. At the same
time, some small water systems are struggling to keep the water
flowing due to lost income from unpaid bills. The governor’s
plan addresses both problems, for now. But what happens next
year? -Written by Sen. Bill Dodd (Napa) and Sen. Lena
Gonzalez (Long Beach).
The epicenter of dry wells during California’s last devastating
drought was undoubtedly Porterville. The small Tulare County
town saw wells go dry en masse in its unincorporated east side.
It became a national headline as the media descended. Amid the
glare of tv cameras, the state pledged to help and agreed to
build three new wells. Five years have gone by, the state is in
the grip of another drought and Porterville is walking a
tightrope as the state connected more than 755 new homes to the
city’s water system but only built one new well.
The time to act is now. Climate change is already altering the
physical environment of the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta and
Suisun Marsh (Delta), and we will continue to experience its
effects through hotter temperatures, more severe wildfires, and
prolonged droughts. Over the long term, climate change in the
Delta is expected to harm human health and safety, disrupt the
economy, diminish water supply availability and usability,
shift ecosystem function, compromise sensitive habitats, and
increase the challenges of providing basic services. Many of
these impacts will disproportionately affect vulnerable
As drought settles over the San Joaquin Valley, a new report
warns of other circumstances that could result in entire
communities losing drinking water. More than a million Valley
residents could lose their public water in coming decades under
the sweeping groundwater legislation known as the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), according to the paper
published earlier this month by the non-profit Pacific
Institute. Signed into law in 2014, SGMA aims over the next two
decades to reduce California’s groundwater deficit by balancing
water pumped out of the ground with the amount replenished.
California lawmakers voted [Monday night] to approve a
record-busting state budget that reflects new agreements with
Gov. Gavin Newsom to expand health care for undocumented
immigrants, spend billions to alleviate homelessness and help
Californians still struggling through the pandemic… The
budget includes $1 billion over several years for wildfire
prevention, $3 billion to alleviate drought and $3.7 billion
over three years to mitigate dangers posed by climate change —
but Newsom and legislative leaders are still figuring out how
to spend the funds.