Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy

Mission & History

Clean water is a basic human right, not a privilege.

Vision
All communities have access to safe, clean, and affordable water.

Mission Statement
The Community Water Center acts as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

The Community Water Center helps build strategic grassroots capacity to address water challenges in small, rural, low-income communities and communities of color. Since opening its doors in 2006, CWC has worked with local residents from 82 California communities (69 in the southern San Joaquin Valley) to improve access to safe, clean, and affordable water. CWC has trained over 2,674 residents as clean water advocates and provided technical assistance to over 15 local water boards struggling with how to manage efficient and accountable water systems in their communities. CWC has also served as legal counsel to a number of small, disadvantaged communities with water systems. As a result, many rural, economically disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquin Valley now have improved access to clean and affordable drinking water.

In 2009, CWC published a comprehensive Guide to Community Drinking Water Advocacy in both English and Spanish. This highly acclaimed guide has been distributed to hundreds of individuals, groups, and local water boards. See here for more information.

CWC also coordinates the coalition Asociación de Gente Unida por el Agua (AGUA), which is comprised of representatives of more than 17 local impacted communities and six nonprofit organizations, as well as youth and community-based organizations, all focused on addressing the root causes of unsafe and unaffordable drinking water for local communities.

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History
The Community Water Center was founded in 2006 to develop and support community-driven solutions to address the ongoing drinking water problems of California’s Central Valley communities. In 2004, Laurel Firestone, an attorney, received an Equal Justice Works Fellowship to start the Rural Poverty Water Project at the Delano office of the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment (CRPE). At CRPE, Firestone teamed up with community organizer Susana De Anda. Together, they successfully helped many individual communities, including Ducor, Tooleville, Tonyville, and Cutler-Orosi, obtain safe, clean, and affordable drinking water. Firestone and De Anda worked to empower residents to force their water boards to clean up residential water that was black and smelled of sewage, secure funding to drill new wells, issue compliance orders requiring water providers to deliver potable water to residents year-round, force the rescission of unconstitutional ordinances that discriminated against extended families, and push for language-access policies to allow Spanish-speaking residents to effectively participate in board meetings.

Over time it became clear that the problems faced by these communities belonged to a landscape of unsafe and unjust water conditions that extends throughout the Central Valley. Due to the scale and complexity of this situation, there was a critical need for an organization dedicated full-time to working with disadvantaged communities on their water challenges. In September 2006, the Rural Poverty Water Project spun off from CRPE and became the Community Water Center, an independent non-profit entity.

Today, the Community Water Center continues to work towards realizing the Human Right to Water for all Central Valley communities through education, organizing, and advocacy. Please see the Solution for more information on our programs. Our main office is located at the heart of South San Joaquin Valley in Visalia in Tulare County, and in 2012 we opened a second office in Sacramento in order to bring our advocacy to the statewide level.

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