Rural Californians lack safe water, a crisis we can solve
By: Lindi Ramsden and Horacio Amezquita
San Jose Mercury News
From birth to death, our lives, health and human dignity depend on access to clean water. Through rites and ritual, many faiths recognize that water is a sacred gift of life.
California's waters are increasingly stressed from climate change, overuse and contamination. While it is critically important to address these serious environmental issues, it is also necessary to address the devastating impact of increasingly toxic water on California's most disadvantaged families, many of whom have been suffering for years.
A bill on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk can begin to address this crisis.
As close as the Salinas Valley, farmworkers coming home after work in the fields are taking their showers in toxic water. To protect family health, these low-income households are spending 10 to 20 percent of their monthly income on water and sanitation. They buy water twice: once to supply the house, and then again to purchase bottled water to drink and cook. Schools are forced to spend money they could have spent in the classroom on bottled water for students. When community water supplies are unsafe, home values drop and investments dry up.
In March, a report by UC Davis to the Legislature on the impact of nitrates from fertilizer, pesticides and dairies confirmed that the problem is getting worse. "One in 10 people living in California's most productive agricultural areas is at risk of exposure to harmful levels of nitrate contamination in their drinking water."
Even the United Nations is concerned. Last year, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water came on mission to the United States, including a trip to investigate California's lack of access to safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities.
When impoverished communities lack safe water at the same time our state invests billions in water infrastructure, it is a water crisis and a moral crisis. It can and must be addressed. As members of the Safe Water Alliance, a collaboration of environmental, faith, health, community, human rights and environmental justice organizations, we believe that o current water policies, which have left behind so many, have proved to be inadequate to the task. The fact that some of these communities have struggled for more than a decade to address the contamination is a resounding indictment of the status quo.
For years, community leaders suffering with toxic, unaffordable water have risen before dawn, taken days off without pay and driven for hours to Sacramento to get the attention of state legislators. The Human Right to Water Act, AB 685, which they have championed, finally has passed the Legislature and awaits the governor's signature.
Published 8 months, 1 week ago under Rivers to Oceans