Community Water Center

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

California's Drinking Water Crisis

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Sources

Each year, over one million Californians are exposed to unsafe drinking water from the taps in their homes, schools, churches, parks and community centers.

Based on the (most recent publicly available) 2014 Annual Compliance Report data from the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) Division of Drinking Water. This SWRCB number does not reflect recurring violations and thus is not an indicator of ongoing inaccess to the Human Right to Water, but since these individuals were served contaminated water during the reporting period, CWC uses this number to express the scope of the problem across the state. (Link)

As many as 1,688 California public schools were impacted by unsafe drinking water between 2003 and 2014.

CWC's forthcoming report on unsafe water in schools. Tune back in this Thursday, May 5th, for the link!

Water systems serving predominantly Latino and low-income communities have disproportionately high occurrences of arsenic and nitrate contamination.

See peer reviewed publications by Carolina Balazs: “Social Disparities in Nitrate-Contaminated Drinking Water in California’s San Joaquin Valley,” September 2011. (Link) and “Environmental justice implications of arsenic contamination in California’s San Joaquin Valley: a cross-sectional, cluster-design examining exposure and compliance in community drinking water systems,” 2012. (Link)

Some families pay up to 10% of their monthly income just on water.

Individual household raw data from the development of the following study by Juliet Christian-Smith, Carolina Balazs, Matthew Heberger, and Karl Longley: "Assessing Water Affordability: a Pilot Study in Two Regions of California," August 2013. (Link)

Unsafe tap water can be found in nearly every county of the state, but areas like the San Joaquin Valley are disproportionately impacted.

Based on data reported here. The 20 census tracts with the highest drinking water indicator percentiles (the worst water quality) were ranked from OEHHA’s CalEnviroscreen raw dataset updated on October 2014.

In 2014, 432 public water systems in the San Joaquin Valley did not meet safe drinking water standards.

Based on the (most recent publicly available) 2014 Annual Compliance Report data from the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) Division of Drinking Water. This SWRCB number does not reflect recurring violations and thus is not an indicator of ongoing inaccess to the Human Right to Water, but since these individuals were served contaminated water during the reporting period, CWC uses this number to express the scope of the problem across the state. (Link)

The problem is both urgent and chronic. 296 small public water systems have been unable to supply safe drinking water to their communities for several years or even decades.  

The SWRCB compiled this list from Safe Drinking Water Information System, the Division of Drinking Water’s database.
This list includes only small community public water systems (PWSs) with under 3,300 service connections or a population of less than 10,000 residents, as well as non-community PWS that are schools or day care centers, which have violated state drinking water standards in at least one source in 2014 (ie – at least one MCL violation, at least one treatment violation, or at least one Total Coliform Rule (pathogen) violation). That means this number does not include public water systems with greater than 3,300 service connections, nor does it include state small water systems, which are not regulated by the SWRCB. Additionally, this number does not include systems which reported an exceedance of hexavalent chromium MCL in monitoring. The MCL compliance deadline was extended by Senate Bill 385 in October 2015.

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