Californians living in hundreds of small, unincorporated communities have unsafe water and inadequate wastewater systems because they can’t afford expensive water treatment facilities.
Moreover, in this state that is still experiencing the effects of a five-year drought, many rural residents face water shortages and grapple with contaminated groundwater, the sole drinking water source for some counties in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
The state classifies much of the region as disadvantaged, with more than 300,000 residents living in low-income, unincorporated communities. The Valley also registers the most water quality violations, and many of its communities rely solely on contaminated groundwater. For comparison, 11 percent of Los Angeles County residents rely solely on contaminated groundwater as a water source versus Tulare’s 99 percent. Tulare and neighboring counties simply lack the economic, technical and institutional capacity to treat contaminated drinking water, all of which has led to a drinking water crisis.
“It’s OK to be rural and small,” Susana De Anda co-founder and co-executive director of the Community Water Center, which advocates for clean drinking water, told the online Water Deeply. “You should not be penalized and live in conditions with unaffordable and toxic water because you’re rural.”