Community Water Center

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

Drinking Water Crisis Brewing in California

By Joe Kukura
SF Weekly
February 9, 2017

The drinking water crisis of Flint, Michigan may be happening again, right here in California. That’s the assessment of the State Water Resources Control Board, who note that approximately 400 communities in California have water that does not meet safe drinking standards.

At a Wednesday, February 8 public workshop, the board showed an alarming map of all of the California towns whose drinking water may be unsafe. Most of these communities are located in the central valley of California, but the central coast and southern California are also affected.  

“Many drinking water systems in the state consistently fail to provide affordable, safe drinking water to their customers,” the State Water Board said in a release. “Lack of safe drinking water is a problem that disproportionately affects residents of California’s disadvantaged communities. The State Water Board has previously estimated that roughly 400 disadvantaged communities in the state receive water from a public water system that does not meet drinking water standards.”

The contamination problems are a little different than those in Flint, Michigan, where lead from aging pipes polluted the drinking water to unsafe levels. In California, most of the drinking water contamination comes from natural contaminants like arsenic, or nitrates from nitrogen-based fertilizers that were used years ago.

California does have some lead contamination, though. A Reuters investigation published in December found that children in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood tested with higher levels of lead exposure than children in Flint.

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