Community Water Center opened its third office in Watsonville in October 2018. This followed the expansion of our mission to seek water justice not just for the San Joaquin Valley, but for all of California.
CWC's work in the Central Coast has begun primarily in northern Monterey County, north of Moss Landing along the coast. This unincorporated community includes Bluff, Jensen, and Springfield roads as well as their surrounding areas. Residents get their drinking water water from both private domestic wells and small water systems, many of which are known to be out of compliance with state drinking water standards including nitrate levels of up to six times the legal limit and other contaminants such as 1,2,3 TCP and Chrom-6.
These communities have had unsafe drinking water for many years and there has been a lack of information about the water quality among residents. While many people are aware that they should not be drinking their tap water (using bottled water for cooking and drinking instead), many do not know what is actually contaminating their drinking water or the severity of contaminants present in the area. Furthermore, residents have had to rely on inconsistent services, with many organizations going in and out of the community. When it comes to long term solutions, there is a lack of consistency in community organizing.
CWC started organizing efforts in early November and have since reached over 40 residents, with many now attending monthly community meetings and participating in a free well testing program. In January, community residents came together to form a community based organization (CBO) dedicated to water justice in the Central Coast! The Comité para tener agua sana, limpia, y economica (Committee for Safe, Clean and Affordable Water) will work to ensure that all homes and schools in the local area have access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water. The Comité will focus their organizing on solutions for drinking water contamination in their communities. They are already organizing around the local elementary school, working to obtain safe bottled water for all students and staff.
On February 22, community residents in Northern Monterey County of Bluff, Jensen and Springfield roads came together to form the first community based organization (CBO) in the Central Coast! CBOs provide community residents impacted by lack of safe water a structure to meet regularly and strategize for long-term solutions for their families.
The Comité para tener agua sana, limpia, y economica (Committee for Safe, Clean and Affordable Water) will work to ensure that all homes and schools have access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water. The Comité will focus their organizing on solutions for water contamination in their communities including nitrate levels found at six times the legal limit and other contaminants like 1,2,3 TCP and Chrom-6. They are already organizing around the local elementary school, working to obtain safe bottled water for all students and staff.
Tomas Garcia, a resident of East Porterville for over 30 years, has been a water justice advocate since the drought began to affect his community’s water supply. “I started having trouble with my well,” he said. “I thought it was going to be a very simple deal to fix the situation but it was a very complicated situation.” Since then, Tomas worked with CWC to organize East Porterville for Water Justice (EPWJ), a community based organization made up of impacted residents working for water solutions. As of 2018, this group is now organizing for other community improvements and is known as Porterville United. “I like to help my community. What I do, I do for my family,” he said.
The drought disproportionately affected residents of East Porterville because East Porterville is an unincorporated community of approximately 7,500 residents, many of whom are low-income Latinos, that rely on groundwater from private wells. As many as 300 wells went dry during the hot summer months of 2014, and other wells in the area have tested positive for nitrates. “A lot of people in my community don’t want to speak and let people know they are suffering,” Tomas said. “When you come home from work (after) 10 hours and there’s not water, it’s very hard.”
After being hard hit by the drought, 755 East Porterville homes now have a source of safe and reliable water for years to come! These homes have been connected to the City of Porterville's public water system. For several years, Community Water Center conducted large-scale community outreach to ensure residents understood their options and what to expect if they chose to connect to the City of Porterville's water system. We are so glad that the project is complete and are committed to ensuring solutions for other residents who are still dealing with dry household wells.
Last updated May 4, 2018
West Goshen is a very small unincorporated community located just east of Visalia in Tulare County. It is home to approximately 500 people, the majority of which are low-income Latinos, and its economy is supported primarily by agriculture and dairies.
West Goshen did not have access to safe drinking water for at least 4 years due to ongoing nitrate and bacteria contamination. To make matters worse, West Goshen’s wells began failing in early 2012. The main well collapsed in 2012, forcing the West Goshen Water District to switch to a backup well. Both of these factors led the community to seek consolidation with nearby City of Visalia's CalWater service, which was completed. The consolidation of water service with Visalia will relieve West Goshen of drought-related problems as well as address some of its ongoing water quality issues.
Last updated May 4, 2018
Ducor, a small town of approximately 800 people, has struggled with water injustices in the past. Ruth Martinez lived in Ducor for the past 40 years, "Little kids were getting rashes from showering, and mothers were complaining that their kids were getting sick. [There were] lots of complaints from everyone, kidney problems [were reported]...” she said. The residents of Ducor had been aware that there was contamination in the water, and these health symptoms made it obvious. "We had no water pressure and they didn't want us to flush our toilets or wash our dishes at a certain time." Kids were not permitted to flush toilets at school, which was dirty and not sanitary. Residents of Ducor were forced to spend enormous amounts of money on water. Every month, Ruth said she spent $65 on her water bill and an additional $100 on bottled water for drinking. Her neighbors all had the same problems, but not all of them could speak English so it was difficult for them to speak up.
Ruth began to organize. She held meetings at her house, and worked with organizations like AGUA and CWC to confront water injustice. She became a member of the community water board in Ducor. "We had go to Sacramento and Tulare/Visalia county offices before they would take care of the problem." Due to this strong community organizing, Ducor has had many successes. "The elementary school across from the orange grove was being sprayed with pesticides,” Ruth said. “We prevented them from spraying pesticides and created an agricultural barrier." Additionally, the community got a loan from Self Help Enterprises and was able to use the money to drill a new well to serve Ducor’s needs. In February 2016, Ruth received a recognition award in Sacramento from CWC. "All of Ducor has problems with contaminated water, I foresee with a lot of petitions and help from the communities we can eventually say, ‘Hey no more contaminated water!’ Water is not a privilege and we have a right to clean water. It's something we all strive for everyday," Ruth says.
Last updated May 4, 2018
Cutler is an unincorporated community of approximately 5,000 people, nearly all of whom are farmworker families, located in Tulare County. Cutler has dealt with DBCP and nitrate contamination in the past, but their water is meeting all standards now.
Jesus Quedevo has lived in Cutler for the past 46 years. He recently had to retire from farmwork in order to take care of his ill wife, and this motivated him to help his community through volunteering. Jesus has been involved in water justice movements and community development organizations, and has helped create positive change in Cutler.
Jesus is especially passionate about clean water in schools, which helps to improve equitable access to education. “My major goal is for all students to get an education… I have a lot of grandchildren in the (school) district… and through continuous communication and collaboration we've received grants to provide drinking water at our local high school.” He has also achieved other water successes in the community. “For the past 10 years, (we have been) working with CWC to access clean drinking water and Proper Notice.” These notices alert community members, in multiple languages, when water is contaminated by pollutants. Previously, community members weren’t adequately notified of contamination in water, or how to effectively respond to the contamination. For example, there are some pollutants, like nitrates, that become more toxic when they are boiled, and these notifications now explain these nuances. In addition, Jesus organized with the community to help conserve water, and Cutler successfully reduced their water consumption by 29%.
Jesus has also been working with the North Tulare County Governance Study project to improve water access. “We are working towards the goals to improve our drinking waters, and be able to trust and drink our water… If we continue to participate and don't forget about the goal of accessing clean drinking water, we'll reach our goal,” he hopes. “Our community successes are not because of me. I've only been part of the successes gained.”
Last updated May 4, 2018
Monson is a small unincorporated community that struggles with securing a safe supply of drinking water. It is a primarily Latino community in Tulare County, located just a few miles from other small communities such as Sultana and the larger city of Dinuba. Surrounded by agriculture fields and dairies, the community is home to approximately 200 people, many of whom live below the poverty line.
Monson had been without clean water for several years. The first tests confirming this suspected contamination discovered many wells with nitrate levels that exceeded the federal health standard by as much as 300%. Several wells also contain bacteria and 1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane (DBCP), a pesticide that was banned in the 1970s but persists in the soil and groundwater. These contaminants caused serious health risks. For example, ingestion of nitrate-contaminated water is extremely harmful to human health and has been linked to methemoglobinemia, or “Baby Blue Syndrome,” and a range of serious gastrointestinal and endocrine system illnesses.
With the help of Tulare County and the neighboring community of Sultana, Monson is now able to provide safe water to its community from its own stand-alone water system administered by Sultana. A full consolidation and annexation is still in the works from Sultana CSD with the help of Self-Help Enterprises.
Last updated May 8, 2018
Poplar, called Poplar-Cotton Center for census designation purposes, is an unincorporated community located in south central Tulare County. Approximately 2,500 people, the majority of which are low-income Latinos, reside in Poplar. The community is dominated by agriculture and industrial activities. The community relies on groundwater and has three wells, one of which is not in use due to nitrate contamination.
Poplar was one of eleven communities in Tulare County to secure emergency funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for drought assistance in late summer 2014. Poplar Community Services District received $462,000 to install two pumps that reach greater depths, but as groundwater levels continue to drop Poplar will need a new well altogether. They currently have a planning project in the works for a new well for the community.
Last updated May 8, 2018
Tiene que nacer un niño azul o tiene que morir los niños para que nos ayuden.
A baby needs to be born blue or children need to die in order for them to help us.
- Maria Elena Orozco, resident of East Orosi.
East Orosi is an unincorporated community in Tulare County of approximately 500 people, nearly all of whom are low-income Latino farmworker families. East Orosi is served by the East Orosi Community Service District, and almost all the groundwater supplies in the area are contaminated.
Residents haven't had safe drinking water intermittently for 10 years. The groundwater in the area has nitrate levels that regularly exceed the federal health standard. Because of this, residents in East Orosi have to pay for water twice - once for water from their tap that they cannot drink, and again when they drive long distances to buy large jugs of potable water for their families.
CWC has supported East Orosi in securing funding and creating long-term solutions. The community is also seeking funding to install water meters to help track and conserve their water supply.
Last updated May 4, 2018
The money that we are spending on safe drinking water could be used on educational material instead.
- Rebecca Quintana, Seville school board member
Seville is a small, low-income community in Tulare county of approximately 74 homes, one elementary school, and a small store; the majority of residents are farmworkers and the median household income is about $14,000 a year. Seville has been without safe drinking water for over 50 years. Seville has old, leaky pipes, and water faucets clogged with sand and rocks.
Plans are currently underway to consolidate with the nearby community of Yettem’s water system. Yettem is also struggling with high nitrate levels, but consolidation of these two systems would give both communities a more secure supply of safe drinking water. Phase 1 of this plan is moving forward this summer to replace the dilapidated distribution network for water in Seville. Next, phase 2 will include drilling a new well in Yettem and the consolidation of the two communities. Both Yettem and Seville are scheduled to form the Yettem-Seville Community Services District this November.
CWC has been working with Seville since December of 2008. CWC helped the community establish the community-based organization Committee for a Better Seville, and helped the community address funding hurdles and secure planning money.
Last updated May 8, 2018