As our summer here in California remains hot and dry and residents are warned to stay hydrated to avoid heat exhaustion, many of our community partners throughout the Central Valley are confronted with a question that gets to the heart of the water justice struggle: Is it more dangerous to not drink the contaminated water coming from my kitchen tap and risk heat exhaustion, or to drink the contaminated water and risk nausea, rashes, organ damage, and contracting a serious illness? The human right to water is not having to choose between the lesser of these two evils. With this reality constantly on our minds, our work has not taken a summer vacation. Here is some of what we’ve been doing in the month of July.
LATEST NEWS ON THE DROUGHT
Due to the drought, Simona and Adolfo Magaña of Seville must utilize buckets of water that they fill from their neighbor’s tap.
As another month of California’s drought has passed, more and more families are finding their wells as dry as the clouds in the sky. The community of Seville in Tulare County has been severely impacted with the water table sinking, water pressure dropping, and nitrate contamination level rising. As a result, residents are being forced to come up with creative solutions to meet their daily water needs such as waking up in the early morning to fill and store buckets of water to use for bathing, washing dishes, and flushing toilets later in the day when the community well’s water pressure is too low to meet demand. However, soon the burden of short-term solutions will be lifted from the shoulders and wallets of individual households as Seville was recently approved for a $45,000 emergency grant from the State Water Resources Control Board to cover the cost of bottled water, and plans to install a filtered water vending machine and new storage tank are now getting off the ground.
FIGHTING FOR ACCESS FOR WELL DRILLING INFORMATION
Well logs are inaccessible to the public and stored in boxes just outside of Sacramento. (Photo: Sacramento Bee)
California’s well completion reports, or “well logs”, provide basic information on the location, depth, diameter, and surrounding geography of the wells throughout the State. Using these reports, researchers can piece together a picture of the the State’s groundwater resources and have a better understanding of how much water can safely be pumped without depleting aquifers and causing long-term harm. However, this information is not open to the general public. Groundwater provides up to 95% of the San Joaquin Valley’s domestic water supply, and as we hear more stories of wells running dry and areas of the Valley sinking, it is critical that this information be accessible to the scientists and experts who could use this information to ensure a sustainable future for our State. As CWC’s Laurel Firestone says, “We’re basically blindfolding ourselves … If California is going to be serious about managing its groundwater, it can’t possibly do that without accessible and transparent data.”
CWC'S PARTNERS LAUNCH AGUA4ALL IN D.C.
Schools and communities without safe water from the tap have to rely on bottled water for their daily needs. The AGUA4ALL campaign will install filters and new tap dispensers to ensure a safe accessible source of water in South Kern and eastern Coachella.
SUCCESSFUL CESAR CHAVEZ FILM & PANEL EVENT
The need for safe water in schools and communities was raised in the White House this month through our partner, The California Endowment, which recently joined First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America in launching the Agua4All program. Agua4All will put water stations in South Kern and East Coachella to provide clean drinking water in schools and other community places, and it is part of the First Lady’s “Drink Up” campaign which encourages kids to make the healthy choice of drinking water instead of sweet and sugared beverages. Our community partners, including Superintendent Michelle McLean from Arvin Union School District and Sergio Carranza from Pueblo Unido, as well project partner Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), attended the launch event in Washington DC where they shared the stories of California schools where students cannot safely drink from the water fountains in their hallways and playgrounds due to the health risks of contaminants such as arsenic and nitrate. Stay tuned for more information about CWC’s work to secure safe drinking water for schools and communities, and click below to learn more about the “Drink Up” campaign.
The planning team, comprised of staff from CWC and the United Farm Workers Foundation, steps out from behind-the-scenes to celebrate this successful event.
On July 27, CWC partnered with the United Farm Workers and United Farm Workers Foundation to host a free screening of the new film, Cesar Chavez, and panel discussion featuring United Farm Workers Foundation Executive Director Diana Tellefson, and our very own Susana De Anda. Thank you for all who were able to join us at this great event! The film was very moving and educational, and our panelists did a great job in calling everyone to take action and continue Cesar Chavez's legacy by fighting for the dignity, equity, and empowerment of all people. Susana also invited folks to join us by signing a petition urging state lawmakers to pass critical groundwater legislation.
THIRSTY FOR JUSTICE MOVIE EVENT IN VISALIA
SAVE THE DATE!
On Thursday, September 25, CWC will be hosting a screening of the new documentary, Thirsty for Justice: The Struggle for the Human Right to Water. This event will be held in Visalia, and the movie will start at 5:30 and will be followed by a panel discussion. Click below for more information and to RSVP.
Top photo by Bear Guerra