By Mark Grossi
Read the Full Story HERE
In the wake of 2016's abnormally wet winter, many have begun to think that the drought is over, and that its ramifications remain a thing of the past. However, as Mark Grossi argues, many of California's most vulnerable communities remain out of clean and safe water, as wells have run dry and the race to dig deeper continues.
For those who live in some of California's most vulnerable communities, swelling rivers and tributaries filled to the brim mean relatively little. Relying heavily on private wells, those who reside in small, rural, and/or aging communities face a host of problems that precipitation cannot remedy.
Despite the passage of legislation in 2014 that would provide financial assistance for groundwater pumping, it is expected that it will take upwards of two decades for those who are affected to receive help. Community Water Center's own Jenny Rempel argues that the "end of the drought" messaging provides a platform for further discussion about inequality and resource disparities. Funds seem to be in their own sort of drought, and, according to Rempel, is something that must be attended to. "And what will happen should any new homes run out of water during the next year? “There is not nearly enough funding for everyone with a dry well to get a grant or even loan assistance since the existing funding is massively oversubscribed.”
Even preliminary studies indicate that a changing global climate will have vastly-important implications on droughts, agriculture, patterns of precipitation, the density of the snowpack, and the health of our once-thriving freshwater delta. The Community Water Center has compiled a list resources and studies that explain how California's Central Valley might be affected if significant action is not taken.
For Immediate Release
Kimiko Martinez, Natural Resources Defense Council, firstname.lastname@example.org, 310-434-2344
Sara Aminzadeh, California Coastkeeper Alliance, email@example.com, 415-794-8422
Cynthia Koehler, WaterNow Alliance, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-515-0511
California Takes Strong Steps Toward Making Water Conservation a Way of Life
Reduced pressure on water supplies will enhance long-term water security and climate resiliency
SACRAMENTO, CA (April 7, 2017) — State officials today released a comprehensive plan to formalize Governor Brown’s 2016 Executive Order on “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life.”
The plan sets a strong path toward achieving the objectives of the order: using water more wisely, eliminating water waste, strengthening local drought resilience, improving agricultural water use efficiency and drought planning. It sets the stage for further Water Board work to ensure that all water is valued and used efficiently, including recycled water, and also prepares California for the realities of living with climate change, including more frequent droughts and floods similar to those we’ve seen recently.
Following is a statement from Tracy Quinn, senior water policy analyst with Natural Resources Defense Council:
“Recent events at Oroville Dam and elsewhere statewide demonstrate the vulnerability of our water supply infrastructure, which can occur during both wet and dry periods, and reinforces the value of water efficiency regardless of the weather. Some of the easiest and least expensive ways to ensure that we have sustainable water supplies in the future is to increase water efficiency, fix leaks and eliminate wasteful practices like hosing down sidewalks. These are common sense fixes that mean more water for us in the long run.”
Following is a statement from Sara Aminzadeh, executive director of California Coastkeeper Alliance:
“The last five years have shown us that we can no longer take water for granted. This plan will help California end the cycle of lurching from one water crisis to the next and ensure our communities and economy can continue to thrive in an uncertain climate reality.”
Following is a statement from Cynthia Koehler, executive director of WaterNow Alliance:
“Water use efficiency and innovation have huge potential in California, and the State’s conservation plan supports local water providers in their efforts to scale up these programs and make their communities more resilient and water secure – while keeping costs affordable for ratepayers.
Following is a statement from Heather Cooley, water program director at the Pacific Institute:
“Californians have made major water conservation and efficiency improvements over the last several decades and especially during the recent drought. Without these efforts, the state’s water challenges would be much worse. The good news is that there remains additional efficiency opportunities, and the state’s plan to make conservation a California way of life will help ensure that California communities, businesses, and ecosystems have the water they need to thrive.”
Following is a statement from Laurel Firestone, co-director of Community Water Center:
“The plan helps ensure affordability of our water supplies, a major issue for low-income communities. In addition, improving drought planning and preparedness, as the plan aims to do, will help protect our most vulnerable communities from the water shortages they have seen during this drought and that will only become more common in the future.”
Following is a statement from Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of Climate Resolve:
“Climate change is bringing more extreme weather. Our dry years have become drier and our wet years have become more extreme. With water supply at risk, it’s common sense for California to conserve and make the most of every drop.”
The plan released today was written by the five state agencies that will lead its implementation – the California Department of Water Resources, State Water Resources Control Board, California Public Utilities Commission, California Department of Food and Agriculture, and California Energy Commission.
Earlier this year, 36 leading water and climate scientists delivered a letter to Gov. Brown to express their support for Executive Order B-37-16 and the state’s draft plan to make water conservation a California way of life. The plan has also received support from a diverse array of stakeholders, including the Building Industry Association, Moulton Niguel Water District, Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Climate Resolve, WaterNow Alliance, California Coastkeeper Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Community Water Center, Pacific Institute, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water and the Water Foundation.
The plan has also received support from a diverse array of businesses, water agencies, environmental justice organizations and non-governmental organizations, many of whom served on the Urban Advisory Group panel who informed the development of the plan over several months.
The proposed urban water use standards are intended to build upon the conservation achieved under SBx7-7 and the emergency mandatory conservation targets. They reflect the need to transition from conservation (simply using less water) toward using water more efficiently. The state proposes to finalize the standards, which will define efficient use, by 2020. Water suppliers will then use those standards to calculate customized water use targets, which they will be required to meet by 2025. The state may also establish interim targets to ensure suppliers are on track to meet 2025 targets.
About California Coastkeeper Alliance
Using law, policy and science, California Coastkeeper Alliance supports and amplifies the work of 12 local Waterkeeper programs to fight for swimmable, fishable and drinkable waters for California communities and ecosystems. CCKA was founded in 1999 with the belief that a healthy ocean and coast and clean water is vital to California’s economy, public health and way of life. Visit us at www.cacoastkeeper.org and follow us on twitter @CA_Waterkeepers.
About Climate Resolve
Climate Resolve is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, founded in 2010, dedicated to creating real, practical solutions to meet the climate challenge while building a better city for Angelenos. Visit us at www.climateresolve.org and follow us twitter @climateresolve.
About Community Water Center
The Community Water Center (CWC) believes all communities should have access to clean, safe, and affordable water. CWC acts as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Visit us at www.communitywatercenter.org and follow us on twitter @CWaterC.
About the Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on twitter @NRDC.
About the Pacific Institute
The Pacific Institute is a global water think tank that creates and advances solutions to some of the world’s most pressing water challenges through interdisciplinary research and by partnering with a variety of stakeholders. Founded in 1987 and based in Oakland, California, the Pacific Institute envisions a world in which society, the economy, and the environment have the water they need to thrive now and in the future. Visit us at www.pacinst.org and follow us on twitter @PacificInstitut.
About WaterNow Alliance
WaterNow Alliance is a network of water utility leaders across the West dedicated to high impact, widespread adoption of sustainable water solutions in communities. Visit us at www.waternow.org and follow us on twitter @WaterNowOrg.
By: Sean Breslin
Published on March 24, 2017
Read the original story HERE
Nearly 300 water systems in California did not comply with safe drinking water standards, many of which are located in disadvantaged communities. "It becomes an economic stress issue," said Jenny Rempel, Director of Education and Engagement here at Community Water Center. "People are paying as much as 10 percent of their income on drinking water alone." Additionally, more than 3,000 household water wells remain dry from the drought and groundwater depletion. California lacks the proper funding for fully addressing these issues.
Local institutions lack the economies of scale, as well as the technical, managerial and financial capacity, to operate and maintain current water systems or to develop plans to adapt to future water shortages due to drought and climate change. Additionally, in order to sustainability provide safe water for their communities, local water decision makers need to be able to access adequate funding resources, including through the creation of a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.
Support a transparent and equitable regional governance structure in Northern Tulare County to secure funds and operate a regional safe drinking water project.
Ensure Environmental Justice communities (particularly small and rural communities, including private well owners) have the necessary tools to address continuing impacts of climate change by building community water resiliency.
Continue to support drought-impacted East Porterville residents in connecting their community to the neighboring public water system to get safe, reliable water.
Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund: This legislative package will provide an ongoing source of funding to fill the "O&M gap" and cover other unmet emergency and long-term drinking water needs, including drilling new wells, repairing or replacing failing drinking water infrastructure, installing water treatment systems, providing technical assistance, consolidating water systems or facilitating drinking water extensions, and other projects designed to secure long-term safe drinking water for all.
Long Term Solutions: The Community Water Center provides extensive organizing, outreach, meeting facilitation, and technical assistance support for local development of long-term, sustainable solutions for safe drinking water. This support includes helping local communities identify specific contaminants in their water supply, sources of pollution, and potential project alternatives. CWC also facilitates the development of joint-solutions among communities to reduce long-term vulnerability and strengthen the resources available to resolve the problem.
Interim Solutions: Because long-term solutions to drinking water challenges can take many years to achieve, CWC is helping to create community-driven interim solutions with communities, schools, and public spaces in the San Joaquin Valley that do not have access to safe drinking water.
Drought Relief: If you're out of water or impacted by the drought, resources are available. CWC can connect you with options for bottled water delivery, storage tanks, and funding for well drilling. CWC is working to leverage more resources for immediate and lasting solutions. Please call our Visalia office at 559-733-0219 if you would like to discuss drought relief options.
Private Well Testing: Community Water Center completed its private well testing program in May 2016. This program provided free water quality testing to private well owners in Tulare, Fresno, and Kern counties. The goal of the program was to provide residents with an understanding of their water quality and resources related to accessing safe drinking water. Our team sampled 32 private wells to analyze water quality. We also provided educational materials about the test results and resources about how to obtain safe drinking water.
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Last May, Governor Brown passed Executive Order B-37-16 which aims to improve drought planning and resiliency in California communities, and make water conservation a way of life throughout the state. The Order provides urban water agencies guidance for developing new water use targets permanently prohibits wasteful water practices. It recommends the development of Water Shortage Contingency Plans (both for urban water agencies and small, rural water systems), and updates to Agricultural Water Management Plans.
We are working to ensure our most vulnerable communities (particularly small and rural communities, and private well owners) have the tools necessary to successfully implement this Executive Order. A group of nonprofits, including CWC, developed comment letters and messaging resources to aid in this work (see below).
If you are interested in becoming involved with this work, contact Kelsey Hinton at email@example.com or 916-706-3346.
Last May, Governor Brown passed Executive Order B-37-16 which aims to improve drought planning and resiliency in California communities, and make water conservation a way of life throughout the state. The Order provides urban water agencies guidance for developing new water use targets permanently prohibits wasteful water practices. It recommends the development of Water Shortage Contingency Plans (both for urban water agencies and small, rural water systems), and updates to Agricultural Water Management Plans. A draft report outlining recommendations for implementation of this executive order was released yesterday, see here.
One component of the executive order called on counties to work with the state to develop "improved drought planning" for those areas not covered by Urban Water Management Plans (i.e., small and rural communities). This is essential, since small and rural communities tend to be the most vulnerable to drought impacts. For example, in East Porterville, over 800 private wells went dry, leaving some families without running water for over three years. In communities like East Porterville, it is not simply a matter of mandating water conservation when a drought hits. Residents' household wells are shallow, and often families are already using a below-average amount of water in their homes.
The following recommendations were noted the in the draft report, which will help to improve the drought response in small and rural communities:
Improve assessment of drought vulnerability to understand relative risks and prioritize actions,
Take proactive actions to reduce drought vulnerability when and where appropriate, and
Improve availability and readiness of appropriate responses for when drought impacts do occur, including financing when and where appropriate.
Improved drought planning discussions will continue into 2017, with stakeholder input from counties, small rural water systems, and private well owners being a necessary component. Contact Kelsey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 916-706-3346 for more information and to get involved!
Water is something that we easily take for granted. We wake up in the morning, stumble into the shower, brush our teeth, and brew our coffee without a second thought of how the abundance of clean water arrived at our tap. By the end of that routine, nearly 30 gallons of water has been used. Yet, as of 2015 more than 660 million people throughout the world still did not have access to clean water, spending large portions of the day walking miles to fetch water.
Most people within the United States do not often consider what life would be like without water for a day, let alone for most of the time. Imagine a Day without Water, September 15, 2016, is a day to help raise awareness and educate the American population on water, our most precious resource and one that is facing serious constraints. This campaign is sponsored by Pisces Foundation’s grantee, US Water Alliance, and is implemented by the Value of Water Coalition. Raising awareness is possible in many ways, such as issuing a press release, sharing success stories, or participating on social media with the hashtag #valuewater. A full list of ways to participate can be found here.
It is easy to assume that most water related concerns are in other countries. But that is not always true. Within California, according to Community Water Center(CWC), a well-respected grassroots organization working to address water and equity issues in California’s Central Valley, thousands of people in the San Joaquin River Basin in the southern Central Valley have no clean drinking water due to drought or contamination of ground water supplies with arsenic, nitrates, or pesticides. In 2014, within the San Joaquin Basin, 432 public water systems did not consistently meet safe drinking standards. These poor water conditions have been exacerbated by the five-year drought-year drought that California currently faces. Many domestic wells that are the primary source of water for poor, disadvantaged communities have gone dry. Water levels at more than 2,300 wells state-wide have been deemed critically low or dry.
At the Pisces Foundation, we are working to highlight and address drinking water quality issues throughout the US, including through an important meeting this week we helped design and co-funded where the focus is on how remote sensing technology can help. At a national level, we’re supporting efforts like NRDC’srecent report examining the scope of lead in drinking water. To address the complexity of the problems in parts of California, our grantee, the Water Foundation, is working with the Community Water Center and other partners to advance statewide and local solutions in the San Joaquin Valley to build resiliency for vulnerable communities and support all human needs. CWC is helping create new water sources, such as hooking up homes to community water systems, building wells, and helping to ensure that broken and contaminated water distribution systems are repaired.
I had the good fortune to visit the San Joaquin Valley with Laurel Firestone of the Community Water Center several years ago. We toured through the Valley in a van, meeting up with local residents at schools, which is where most people have to go to pick up water for their homes and families. Turnout was high throughout our tour as residents came out to explain their many years of efforts to obtain access to the safe tap water that the rest of us take for granted. It left a deep impression on me.
Rebecca Quintana and her family are among those the Community Water Center is assisting. The Quintana family did not have normal, reliable deliveries of clean drinking when CWC helped install a new well for them in the fall of 2014. The Quintana family, like other residents of Seville, CA, had access only to ground water contaminated with nitrate at levels that were much higher than federal health standards deem safe. But for the Quintanas and others, a new well is not the complete solution. The entire water distribution system must be replaced and be connected to an outside water source to ensure safe water for the residents of Seville.
The Pisces Foundation is proud to partner with the Water Foundation and the Community Water Center, and many other grantees committed to clean and safe drinking water. Together, our goal is to make a day without water an imaginary world. No one should have to live even one day without clean water.
Es un caluroso domingo en este seco valle agrícola y Erasto Terán, uno de los promotores del Centro Comunitario por el Agua -CWC por sus siglas en Inglés- visita la casa de su amigo, Everardo Suárez.
-¿Hola cómo estás? –pregunta Erasto.
Erasto lee en voz alta para Everardo y su esposa la solicitud que iniciaría los trámites para conectar su propiedad al sistema municipal de agua potable:
“El propósito de este proyecto es proveer para la comunidad del Este de Porterville, un suministro permanente de agua segura y limpia en su hogar…”
Everardo es un trabajador agrícola que ha vivido casi la mitad de sus 63 años en esta propiedad. Es uno de los cerca de dos mil jefes de familia, en su mayoría jornaleros agrícolas, que desde hace más de tres años se quedaron sin agua cuando a muchos se les secaron sus pozos. Suárez aceptó firmar.
-¿La tercera línea? –dice Everardo.
-Todas las líneas que están –responde Erasto.
“Oh, claro que sí que estoy contento, porque ya vamos a tener agua. Nos la van a conectar y eso es muy bueno”
Sin perder tiempo, Erasto Terán, veterano ex organizador de la Unión Campesina recibe una llamada de otro de los afectados por la sequía.
-¿Ya mandaron su forma?” –pregunta Erasto por el teléfono.
-No, apenas llegaron-, contesta el otro afectado.
-Mira, llena la forma de consentimiento y mañana me la das para entregarla a la ciudad y que empiecen el proceso de documentación.
Pero no todos los residentes aceptan así de fácil. De hecho, hasta la fecha sólo una de cada cinco familias ha iniciado los trámites. Una condición es que el jefe de familia dé permiso a las autoridades para que clausuren su pozo de manera permanente. Y aunque no habría costo para la familia, eso no le gusta a Marisela Corona, una joven trabajadora agrícola, casada y con tres hijos menores de diez años.
“Pues es que ahorita nosotros acabamos de hacer el pozo nuevo y gastamos mucho dinero”
¿Cuánto es lo que gastaron?
Marisela: “Cerca de 30 mil dólares”
Maricela reconoce que se arriesga a seguir dependiendo para sus necesidades del agua embotellada y para uso doméstico de lo que les da de emergencia el gobierno. Pero aun así se niega a firmar el consentimiento.
“Horita por lo pronto, no. Más adelante si fuera obligación, pues a ver si nos pudieran ayudar con el dinero que gastamos”
Sonido de gente llegando a junta comunitaria…
“Pásele, pásele a lo barrido…”
Tomás García es un residente y activista que después de medio día de tocar puertas recibe a uno de los más de 200 vecinos que se animaron a llegar a esta asamblea informativa. Recuerda cómo cuando se secó su pozo cambió la vida de su familia.
“Para llegar a tu casa prender la llave y no encontrar agua es muy difícil y estresante… Después de 10 -11 horas de trabajo, llegar a tu casa y estar vaciando cubetas de agua a los tanques para tener agua para el otro día… Tus hijos diciéndote que el agua para bañarse no les alcanza, que no tiene agua para ‘flushar’ los ‘toilets’, ies muy estresante!”
Tomás afirma que así pasaron más de seis meses.
“Mi familia me dijo, hey Daddy, vamos a movernos a la ciudad. Y le digo: m’ija, si me muevo de aquí nos vamos, está bien, pero el problema se nos va a quedar atrás”
Se decidieron organizar y con otros vecinos afectados formaron el East Porterville for Water Justice, en febrero pasado. Con la presión de ésta y varias organizaciones, el gobierno decidió destinar millones de dólares para suministrarles mensualmente agua de uso doméstico y agua embotellada. Pero ya que esta ayuda es temporal, consiguieron que la ciudad de Porteville aceptara extender su sistema de agua municipal al desatendido poblado, que queda en territorio del Condado de Tulare.
Sonido de asamblea…
Ryan Jensen, del CWC: “Gracias a todos por venir…”
Después de meses de cabildeo, por fin las autoridades conectaron al sistema a una familia. Esto fue la semana pasada. Dionisio Ramírez es el jefe de la primera familia donde ya fluye el agua de la llave.
“Pues contento de recibir el agua ya…”
Los afectados, activistas y autoridades tienen prisa, el tiempo se les acaba para motivar a más vecinos, señala Julie Philips, funcionaria de Porterville, quien también desafío el inclemente calor para tocar puertas.
“The September 1st deadline is the deadline to get the consent forms sign. We are really hoping we can get folks to sign this consent form and know what sort of interest there is”
(El primero de septiembre es la fecha límite para que firmen los consentimientos. En realidad esperamos que la gente los firme para medir el nivel de interés que existe en la comunidad).
Phillips asegura que por medio de esta consulta se trata de conocer la cantidad de agua que demandarían los nuevos usuarios y asegurar suficientes fondos para todos. Espera que este próximo domingo, más vecinos asistan a la asamblea para seguir llenando los consentimientos.
Pero la sequía y la contaminación siguen afectando a otras comunidades, dice Terán:
“Por ejemplo; Manson, Seville, Sultana, Kettle, Orosi…”
Lleno de optimismo, Tomás García espera que sus residentes tomen nota de su experiencia:
“Para que otras comunidades se unan, y también sigan a delante con su lucha. ¡Si se puede!”
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