Where: Kern County, California

Issue: Californians lack access to safe drinking water

Outcome: Through the Agua4All program, RCAC has installed water bottle filling stations in Kern County and distributed reusable water bottles to students

More than one million Californians lack access to safe drinking water, and their only alternatives are expensive bottled water or sugary beverages. Low-income, predominately Hispanic communities in the state are disproportionately affected, contributing to a public health crisis. One in three Hispanics and nearly half of the state’s adults are pre-diabetic.

With The California Endowment’s support, RCAC and its local partners launched the Agua4All program in schools in the Eastern Coachella Valley and southern Kern County in 2014. The idea is simple: install water bottle filling stations, in schools, parks and community centers, and include water treatment where contamination is an issue. The program also advocates for sustainable long-term solutions to ensure safe drinking water for all. The pilot program concluded in early 2017, and RCAC has since expanded Agua4All throughout California.

During 2017 program staff continued work in Kern County. They installed additional units at two parks in Arvin and provided technical assistance to install 19 stations in Bakersfield. To date, Agua4All has installed 138 water bottle filling stations, with treatment where necessary, in Kern County alone.

Outreach and communication to students and communities have played a large role in Agua4All’s success. RCAC staff have introduced Wally the Water Droplet, a mascot designed to appeal to youth and adults alike, and outreach and education materials including brochures, safe water station signs, children’s activity books, classroom curricula and social media messaging. RCAC staff also attend community events where they share program information and discuss the benefits of drinking safe water.

Agua4All raised awareness as to the lack of safe drinking water access in schools and communities throughout the state. Staff worked with a drinking water advocates coalition to successfully secure $10 million in the 2016-17 state budget for the Drinking Water for Schools Grant program.