Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy
Pages tagged "Contamination"

Small Communities Can't Solve Toxic Water Problems Without Help

Five years ago California became the first state in the nation to recognize access to safe, clean drinking water as a human right. Today, the reality for hundreds of communities throughout the state is they have tap water that’s too contaminated to drink and no money to clean it up. Over 300 mostly rural and economically disadvantaged California communities have water that has dangerous levels of arsenic, uranium, or nitrates, which have drastic health implications. The biggest barrier in solving this issue is that these small communities simply do not have the money to build and run water treatment systems. The solution is Senate Bill 623, introduced by Senator Monning, which would establish a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund and subsidize the operation and maintenance costs of cleanup efforts in these communities. Many environmental groups such as Community Water Center and Clean Water Action are backing SB 623 in hopes it bill will bring relief to these communities, where residents feel their calls for help have long been ignored. Currently, SB623 is sitting in the House Rules Committee until the legislature is back in session next year. Continuing to fight for and support SB623 is crucial for its successful passage next year!


Read more here






Editorial: California requiere una inversión en agua potable


En California tenemos un gran problema con respecto al agua. Aunque siempre oímos de la falta de agua en California, un problema serio que todavía tenemos es que hay hasta un millón de personas en nuestro estado que no tienen agua potable. Hay más de 300 comunidades que la calidad del agua potable está por debajo de los estándares federales. Las comunidades más afectadas son las más pobres, las que están en zonas rurales, y las que no están en condiciones de invertir en los sistemas de tratamiento de agua o en actualizar su infraestructura hidráulica. La solución de esta problema es aprobar la SB 623 que asegura que todos los californianos tengan acceso al agua sana porque la necesitan y la merecen. La SB 623 pasó de forma unánime en el Senado estatal y ahora es urgente que los legisladores aprueben la SB 623 para asegurar que todos los californianos tengamos agua limpia, sana, y económica.


Publicado en la parte editorial por el periódico La Opinión, conocido por ser el periódico más grande de habla hispana en los Estados Unidos, y el segundo periódico más leído en la ciudad de Los Ángeles, la editorial apoya la SB 623! Lea el artículo aqui 



LA Times Editorial: Hundreds of thousands of Californians lack access to safe drinking water. Let's fix that once and for all


Although our recent wet weather has eased water shortages and droughts that California was facing, lawmakers and water agencies cannot stop just yet. There are still more than a million Californians who are left without safe and affordable drinking water, a problem that does not improve with precipitation. These Californians must either pay huge amounts to have safe water delivered to them, or suffer the many consequences that result from drinking, cooking with, and bathing in unsafe water. Most low-income communities that are faced with this problem do not have the funds to pay for clean water and consequently, suffer those consequences. The solution to this problem is establishing a $100-million fund to finance projects that supply clean, safe and affordable water to people currently without it. Growers would pay a fee on fertilizer or some other assessment for a 15-year period. Water ratepayers across the state would fund most of the rest through a 95-cent fee each month. The passage Senate Bill 623 would ensure that all Californians have access to the basic human right of safe, clean and affordable drinking water.

 Check out this excellent editorial in support of SB 623 from the Los Angeles Times





By Ezra David Romero

Farmers and environmental justice leaders, including Community Water Center, have led a coalition that is urging California Assembly leaders to bring SB623, the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to a vote, instead of tabling it until the next legislative session. Passing this bill as quickly as possible is of highest priority, as it would fund long-term operations and maintenance of water systems for the 300 plus California communities dealing with water contamination. Waiting until the next legislative session would leave hundreds of communities with unsafe tap water, contaminated with nitrates, arsenic, uranium, and other contaminants.


Check out the full story from KVPR:



August 2017 CWLN Newsletter

Community Events & Announcements:

Armona Community Services Dedication of New $9,200,000 Well and Water Treatment Facility

The Board of Directors of the Armona Community Services cordially invites you to the dedication of their new $9,200,000 well and water treatment facility. The Dedication Ceremony will begin promptly at 11AM followed by facility tours and a light lunch. Armona is very proud of this state of the art facility and hope you are able to attend.  If you would like to address the audience or make a presentation, please call Krystal at (559) 584-4542 in order for us to properly introduce you.

Friday, September 8th, 2017

11:00 AM

10116- 14th Avenue, Hanford, CA (immediately South of the Old Kings Drive In Theater)


Community Water Center’s Water Justice Celebration

Join us for food, music, networking, and inspiring speakers! Check out our flyer and RSVP here: 

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

5:30-8:00 pm

210 Cafe -- 210 W. Center Ave. Visalia, CA 93291

Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund (SB 623) updates:

SB 623 (Monning) creates a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund with the State Water Board to fund drinking water solutions including capital infrastructure and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. Currently there is no available funding to help systems struggling to finance O&M costs and without being able to show ability to do so, these systems are ineligible for capital infrastructure grants and loans from the State. The fund will be partially funded through contributions from agriculture for communities impacted by nitrate contamination, and partially funded through a water user fee (less than a dollar for single-family homes) for all other barriers to safe and affordable drinking water.

So far SB 623 has passed through the California Senate and one committee in the California Assembly, but it still has a number of hurdles ahead. In late August the bill will be voted on in Assembly Appropriations committee, then in early September it will go to the Assembly floor for a vote, then back to the Senate for another floor vote, and finally the bill will go to the Governor who has until mid-October to sign the bill into law.

SB 623 needs your support and there are a number of ways you can help. If your district has not done so already, you can submit resolutions in support of the bill. You can call your local legislator and let them know you support safe drinking water for all. You can also go to to sign a petition in support of SB 623. Together we can ensure California finally has a sustainable source of funding to support the human right to water.

If you have any questions please contact Jonathan Nelson at 916-706-3346 or


Low Income Rate Assistance Program (AB 401) update:

The State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) has concluded a series of public meetings to discuss options for a low-income rate assistance (LIRA) program to help Californians who have difficulties paying their water bills. Some local programs already exist, but AB 401 (passed in 2015) directs the Water Board to develop a plan for a statewide program that would cover many low-income households not currently served by a water LIRA. In the coming months, the Water Board will be working on a report to submit to the legislature in early 2018 that will include any recommendations for legislative action; if approved, a statewide water LIRA program could be in place in 2019. CWC will continue to be involved in the implementation process to ensure that the needs of California’s small rural communities are addressed in the proposal. You can help the Water Board design an effective, appropriate program to help low-income residents pay their water bills by submitting written comments on the published AB 401 scenarios until August 25th. This is an important step toward water affordability, and another step closer to achieving the human right to water for all Californians!


If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact Sonia Saini at

Don’t miss our next Network Briefing: September 28th, 4-5 PM

REMINDER: no Network Briefing call in August                                                                                                

Network “briefings” are monthly conference calls that provide members the opportunity to connect with each other, crowd-source questions, and receive information from the comfort of their own homes. As a reminder, we changed service providers which means, we have a new conference call phone number and passcode. To join, dial (929) 432-4463, when prompted, enter the access code 5254-59-7515 followed by the pound key (#). Let Adriana know if you need a pre-paid calling card in order to call long-distance.


                        1.   Member updates and questions

                        2.   Regional and state updates and questions

                        3.   Monthly discussion topic: Prop 1 / funding projects

Upcoming Events and Trainings:                                         

Find more events on our Community Water Leaders online calendar found at

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) Updates:

On August 1st, 2017, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a resolution to remove the the current MCL for the pollutant hexavalent chromium (chrome 6). This resolution was passed after a Superior Court of Sacramento County ruling invalidated the hexavalent chromium MCL on May 31, 2017.  In 2014 the MCL was set at 10 parts per billion (ppb). Hexavalent chromium is a naturally occurring heavy metal that may cause cancer after long-term exposure.

The hexavalent chromium MCL will be deleted from the California Code of Regulations in late September. The Board will begin the process for adopting a new MCL and will have a new MCL in approximately 18-24 months. While the State will not enforce hexavalent chromium compliance plans, the state MCL for total chromium (both trivalent and hexavalent chromium) of 50 ppb will remain in place. The Board estimates that the new MCL will be at the same or similar level as the now invalid one. Public water systems that planned/completed projects to treat hexavalent chromium may use that information once the new MCL is established.

Featured Resources of the Month:

  1. Citizen’s Guide to Working with the California Water Boards

The State Water Resources Control Board just released an updated guide that provides information on the various ways to engage with your local Water Board. The guide includes information ranging from: government structure and overview of water board programs, basin planning processes, water rights application processes, and a series of Water Board maps. The guide provides examples of available databases such as My Water Quality, a web portal for monitoring water safety, and GeoTracker, a data management system for impacted groundwater sites where users can layer data onto a map.  No matter what your current level of engagement with our Regional Water Board, this guide is a helpful reference for navigating processes and getting connected with water resources.


  1.  Department of Water Resources -- Groundwater Information Center

The Groundwater Information Center (GIC) is a web portal where visitors can access groundwater information ranging from: groundwater management plans, water well basics, well permitting processes, and information on bulletin 118. The portal also offers links to an interactive groundwater map application and a link to the Water Data Library (WDL) with data for over 35,000 California wells.

REMINDER: Reduced Annual Fees for DAC Public Water Systems                                                                                                                                     

On May 15, 2017 the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water issued a letter to Community Public Water Systems informing them of the possibility of reducing their Annual Fee if the system serves a Disadvantaged Community (DAC).

If you qualify (the Median Household Income in your community is less than $49,454), the reduced fee for your water system will be based on the number of connections that you serve. Systems serving fewer than 100 connections will pay $100. Systems serving 15,000 connections or less will pay $100 plus $2 for each service connection greater than 100.

If you believe your water system is eligible and wish to receive a reduced Annual Fee, submit a request in the form of a signed letter and include information demonstrating that your community meets the definition of a Disadvantaged Community, the DDW will respond.

You can find the letter they sent here. If you have any questions, contact your District Engineer.


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.

Tap water in San Lucas is again unsafe to drink.

By:Nick Rahaim
January 26, 2017


When Sheri Braden grabs a few potatoes from her pantry to cook for dinner, she rinses them off under the faucet. Then she uses water from a 5-gallon jug to rinse off the tap water she originally used. The water running through the pipes to her home has been deemed unsafe for human consumption.

The tiny community of San Lucas, eight miles southeast of King City where the Salinas Valley floor rises and begins to fade into hills, has been on bottled water restrictions since October 2016 after two tests found the well supplying drinking water had elevated levels of nitrates.

“We’ve been through this before and we’ll keep dealing with it into the future until we find a new water supply,” says Braden, who is also the president of the San Lucas Water District. “We’re still hoping that we can connect to King City’s water system.”

San Lucas was on bottled water restrictions from 2011-14 after a different well supplying water to the community was found to have levels of nitrates that exceeded state and federal standards. Nitrate contamination is largely attributed to fertilizers leaching through the soil into groundwater.

John Romans, who owns Mission Ranches, which covers more than 1,200 acres of farmland outside San Lucas, has become the de facto steward of the community’s water supply. After the old well, located on Mission Ranches property, was found to be contaminated in 2011, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered Romans and landowner Wendell Naraghi to supply San Lucas’ roughly 350 inhabitants with bottled water until a new water source was found.

In 2014, Romans drilled a new well on Mission Ranches property, closer to the Salinas River, to serve as a temporary water solution for the community. The well remained a reliable source of water for nearly two years, until elevated nitrate levels were found in two separate tests in July and September of 2016.

The bottled water order issued by the Monterey County Environmental Health Bureau wasn’t the only water setback San Lucas residents faced in 2016. In September, plans for connecting San Lucas’ water supply to King City’s were put on hold after determining there was not enough money to complete the design, permitting and environmental reviews.

Connecting San Lucas to King City would cost more than $1 million in planning and another $10-$12 million in construction costs, says Nick Nichols, special projects engineer with the Monterey County Resource Management Agency, who was charged with designing the pipeline. Nichols was working off a $440,000 grant from the State Water Resources Control Board.

Now the state is asking the county and the San Lucas Water District to look into finding a cheaper groundwater and water treatment plan.

Securing a new groundwater source for San Lucas that’s not on Mission Ranches property will be a challenge, Nichols says: “A lot of people have done a lot of water exploration in that area and haven’t found much.”

For the indefinite future, residents of San Lucas will be reliant on five 5-gallons jugs of water a week.


Toxic water plagues rural California


By: Barrett Newkirk

December 13, 2016

Original story:

Californians relying on small water utilities to bring drinking water into their homes, or who work or go to school in places providing their own water, are far more likely to be exposed to lead, according to a new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data by The Desert Sun and USA TODAY.

Small public water systems across the state made up the vast majority of systems found to have high levels of lead in their drinking water or testing violations since 2010, the analysis found. These systems typically exist in rural areas and serve less than a few thousand people. Some serve only a few hundred or even a few dozen people, sometimes at a single school or business.

The results are evidence that while most water utilities across the state have clean records when it comes to lead, smaller agencies with limited resources more often struggle more often to comply with safety protocols. Neither the state nor the small water systems have the capacity to monitor for safety of drinking water as often as larger water systems do. Regulators are encouraging consolidation and a new law requires any new small system coming on line to first consider joining an existing system.

“The real interesting story is the amount of testing that’s required by a water system,” said Rick Williams, board president of the Bodega Water Company, which serves 38 households in rural Sonoma County.

The Bodega Water Company has seen excessive levels of lead in drinking water five times since 2010. According to Williams, the problem is not the water or wells that supply it but is old lead plumbing fixtures inside the community’s historic homes.

“We have no control over what people do in their own homes,” he said. “We can’t tell people they have to replace their own pipes.”

Tests for lead and copper are typically required every three years nationally, but a high lead reading would initiate follow-up tests every six months. The Bodega Water Company last saw a high lead reading in 2012. Tests in 2013 and 2014 then showed levels within acceptable standards, according to state testing information published online.

The toxic metal can cause brain damage and other physical ailments if ingested and can be particularly harmful to children. Experts say no amount of lead is considered safe.

While experts say lead has been less of a problem in California than other states, concerns about small water systems not meeting standards for other contaminants have prompted state officials to try and limit the number of new small systems and combine existing systems when possible.

The Bodega Water Company serves about 77 people, which Williams said includes some part-time residents. It’s among the smallest of California’s more than 7,600 public water systems.

The Desert Sun analysis of EPA data found that since 2010, 541 public water systems in the state either had drinking water tests with high lead levels or violations for improper testing. That is about 7% of all systems statewide.

But of the 541 systems with violations, 498 (92%) served fewer than 3,300 people and 412 (76%) served fewer than 500 people.

State drinking water regulators are well aware that smaller water utilities are more likely to struggle to meet safety standards.

“The smaller water systems just suffer from not having an economy of scale. They don’t have sufficient customers to pass charges on to, so even the monitoring costs really hit them in the pocketbook,” said Cindy Forbes, deputy director for the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water.

Small water systems are not a California-specific issue. As a new USA TODAY investigation found, about 4 million Americans get water from small operators who skipped required tests or did not conduct tests property, and about 100,000 people get their drinking water from utilities that discovered high lead but failed to treat the water to remove it. Dozens of utilities took more than a year to formulate a treatment plan and even longer to begin treatment.

Federal drinking water regulations give small systems greater leeway in monitoring. Larger systems, for example, must perform water quality checks that only become required of smaller systems once lead is detected. Operators of small systems also need to receive less training.

Forbes said some states take on the responsibility of monitoring small systems. In California, she said, “It would take an army of staff just to do it.”

Instead, state officials are trying to reign in the number of small water systems by making it harder for new ones to form and encouraging – even forcing – consolidations.

A law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September that takes effect in January requires anyone seeking a permit for a new water system to look into connecting to an existing system and compare the costs of consolidation versus creating a new system.

State Sen. Bob Wieckowski of Fremont, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement earlier this year that too many water systems “lack the expertise and financial resources to effectively and safely provide service to their customers.”

Wieckowski’s bill followed a 2015 report by the State Water Resources Control Board that found small water systems more often have violations for contaminants such as arsenic, nitrate and uranium.

Separately, the state has begun pushing water systems with poor safety records to consolidate with neighboring systems. Since 2015, California water officials have encouraged seven consolidations, and in April they announced their first mandatory consolidation. After multiple high levels of arsenic, the Pratt Mutual Water Company, which served about 1,500 mostly poor and Latino residents in the Matheny Tract community of Tulare County, was mandated to join the city of Tulare system.

Following a seven-year wait and initial agreement that led to litigation, the state-mandated consolidation came to fruition on May 31.

“It’s working well,” said Fresno attorney Ashley Werner, who represented Matheny Tract residents. “The city is complying with the settlement agreement.”

Before the consolidation, Javier Medina complained the water piped into his home smelled and didn’t seems to help keep him or his clothes clean. Buying bottled water for drinking and cooking was a constant household chore.

But since connecting to Tulare’s water system, Medina and his family can consume their water without concerns.

“Residents are now happy,” he said. “We have clean water. We don’t worry about the contaminated water.”

At least two small water systems that serve a single school are using state grant money to consolidate with other systems, but the process has been slow.

Students at Orange Center School, a K-8 school outside of Fresno, have relied on water coolers instead of the school’s built-in drinking fountains for more than two years because of high lead readings going back to 2010.

After hoping to join the city of Fresno’s water system before the start of the current school year, school Principal and Superintendent Terry Hirschfield now hopes work will begin over the upcoming winter break.

“The kids are not at risk and our parents are satisfied with us providing them clean drinking water,” Hirschfield said.

Also in Fresno County, officials with Fairmont Elementary School have been working since 2009 to connect with a nearby water utility. The school’s own system was giving students and staff water with high levels of nitrate, a naturally occurring chemical that can be elevated because of agricultural runoff. The school has turned off its taps and instead relied on bottled water for many years, possibly as long as a decade, said Richard Sepulveda, chief operations officers for the Sanger Unified School District.

Since 2010, the elementary school has exceeded acceptable levels of lead seven times, the most of any water system in the state. Because the pipes aren’t being used, it’s possible for lead to accumulate over time.

Sepulveda said he knew nitrates were a problem but not lead. “It takes a while,” he said of the school’s plans to join another water system.

“We got awarded the grant – I want to say three or four years ago, and it’s just now that we’re getting funded.”

North in Sonoma County, the community of Bodega sits among heavily wooded hills about seven miles from any other water provider. Williams, the Bodega Water Company president, said he can treat the well water to make it less corrosive to lead pipes, but as far as consolidation, he’s in the same situation as other small, remote systems.

“It’s not economically feasible to do anything like that,” he said.




AGUA and CWC Host Federal EPA Officials

Last month, the AGUA Coalition and CWC hosted federal officials from the US EPA’s Office of Water to share their experiences and expertise as the federal agency develops its National Action Plan for Safe Drinking Water. 29 community leaders from the San Joaquin Valley held a roundtable discussion with federal EPA Office of Water administrators, as well as administrators at EPA Region 9 and the State Water Board.


The participants shared powerful testimony about the need for better enforcement and funding to ensure that small, low-income communities have safe water. Individuals shared stories of receiving conflicting notices about water safety. For instance, Seville residents had recently received a boil water notice that said to boil water to address bacterial contamination, but not to serve boiled water to infants because it might have high nitrate levels. These confusing messages, which left older residents wondering why their health wasn’t of concern with nitrates, which can cause cancer through long-term consumption. Fresno residents shared that their annual Consumer Confidence Report, which explains water quality data, required residents to look online for the results and did not make the Spanish-language version easy to access online. Residents of Arvin explained that although they live in a low-income community, they have had great difficulty accessing adequate funding to finance a water treatment facility, which means residents have been dealing with arsenic-contaminated water for over 10 years. Many residents from drought-impacted communities shared stories of the extreme hardship of living without any running water. They expressed that federal funding needs to be made available for low-income communities which have never had centralized infrastructure to secure safe and affordable water, often through consolidations and interties.

Following the roundtable, federal and state officials visited Seville and East Porterville to learn more about the situation in communities impacted by water quality and supply challenges. The visits made visible the need for better coordination and communication between agencies and the public with regards to issues of water supply and reliability.

Nitrates Poison Water in California's Central Valley

September 19, 2016

In California's Central Valley, where verdant fields of fruit and vegetables unfurl under sunny skies, the water that feeds them -- and flows into taps across the region -- contains a toxic and silent poison.

The very same farmers who have tilled and cultivated the earth for decades in one of America's biggest produce regions have also poisoned it, dumping millions of tons of fertilizer, which has found its way into many of the region's aquifers.


Nitrates, a residue left behind by intensive farming, now lurk in the water in a number of communities, many of them poor and rural.

Agricultural fertilizers as well as cow manure from dairy farms have led to domestic wells in California's Central Valley having dangerously high levels of nitrates ©Robyn Beck (AFP)

For years, Cristobal Chavez has been drinking the water directly from the faucet, never imagining that he, his wife and their children were in danger of nitrate poisoning.

The water "tasted normal," said the former truck driver, who lives in the agricultural town of Porterville, is a foster parent and now runs a day care -- meaning lots of children have consumed the water in his home over the years.

Several months ago, the Community Water Center (CWC) nonprofit association discovered that water in the family's well contained twice as many nitrates as the maximum allowed under state standards.

According to a study by the University of California, Davis, some 250,000 people in the region are at risk of excessive exposure to nitrates.

Most of the tainted communities are small and cut off from larger water distribution networks, making them dependent on wells. The majority are poor, and most residents are Latino, with few speaking English well.

The California State Water Resources Control Board, which monitors public distribution systems in large cities, has no jurisdiction over private wells.

One of its branch chiefs, Kurt Souza, said that county authorities are "trying to target the areas they feel are the most critical," but admitted they had probably missed some contaminated spots.

- 'Health emergency' -

The toxic effects of nitrates are widely recognized by World Health Organization and US health officials, and are particularly dangerous for children and pregnant women.

Nitrates can sometimes cause a deadly blood disorder called "blue baby" syndrome, in which the blood's capacity for carrying oxygen is reduced, in addition to causing increased miscarriages and fetal deformations.

The substance is also thought to play a role in kidney and thyroid problems, and may cause certain cancers.

Nitrates are "a public health emergency," said Jennifer Clary, an advocate at CWC.

According to a CWC report, the rate of blue baby syndrome is 40 percent higher in the Porterville area than the California average.

California's Public Health Department was unable to provide statistics on blue baby syndrome, and says it does not collect data on the broader impact of nitrates in the Central Valley.

"There is a total lack of transparency, this is of a crisis proportion," Erin Brockovich, the environmental crusader portrayed by Julia Roberts in her Oscar-winning role in the 2000 eponymous Hollywood film, told AFP.

- 'Ticking time bomb' -

"Most communities suffering are not sophisticated enough to demand change, and since they are predominantly from a migrant status there has never been a push really to get anything done," said Bob Bowcock, an expert who works with Brockovich.

Honorio Nunez, who is Mexican and makes a living picking oranges, discovered with the help of CWC that his tap water in Porterville is contaminated with nitrates and bacteria.

Although his family has been using water bottles, which have been delivered for the past two years by emergency services due to a drought that has dried out area wells, he and his wife worry about the water that they and their children drank before that.

"The vast number of smaller communities with this nitrate contamination are a ticking time bomb," Brockovich said.

Authorities have indicated a willingness to toughen legislation on the amount of nitrates farmers can use, but are still in the information gathering stage.

"It will take 10 years for the government to even regulate them," Brockovich said.

Of the 1,500 Porterville homes that are being connected to a larger water distribution network, only 10 percent are expected to be on-stream within the next year.

"If we don't do anything 80 percent of people (in parts of the Central Valley) could be impacted by nitrates by 2050," said Deborah Ores of the CWC.

Meanwhile, many of Porterville's residents are simply stuck, with no place else to go.

"We've seen people interested in buying the house," Chavez said of his property.

But when they find out about the nitrates, all hope will be lost, he said.


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