Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy
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100+ Community Members Travel to Sacramento for Rally!

Yesterday was a powerful day with over 100 residents from the San Joaquin Valley traveling to Sacramento to share their experience with unsafe water and urge legislators to support the Governor’s Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. Several speakers raised their voices for safe water at the rally including West Goshen resident Lucy Hernandez, Lanare resident Isabel Solario, Senator Bill Monning, Senator Ed Hernandez, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, State Water Resources Control Board Chair Felicia Marcus, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, Dolores Huerta and Dr. Salvador Sandoval.

See pictures from the day below! Thank you to everyone who took the time to raise their voices for safe water!

See more on the rally from Telemundo Sacramento and Univision Sacramento


For Immediate Release

Contact: Steven Maviglio, 916-607-8340

June 8, 2018

SACRAMENTO -- Supporters of a statewide Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund today applauded the commitment by Governor Jerry Brown, Legislative leadership and a bipartisan group of legislators to continue to craft a solution to the state’s drinking water crisis.

The Legislature did not take further action on the Fund as part of this year’s budget bill but signaled that they will continue work on the Fund through the summer. Noted the Governor’s Department of Finance spokesperson H.D. Palmer: “The Legislature has indicated a commitment to continue discussions this summer. They recognize that this is a very important issue that will take some more time to work through.”

The budget does specifically set aside $23.5 million General Fund for allocation to “safe drinking water actions later in this legislative session.”

Senator Monning, the Senate Majority Leader and author of the original bill proposing the Fund, SB 623, made the following statement:

“I appreciate the commitment of the Governor and my Senate and Assembly colleagues to work toward a comprehensive drinking water solution in coming weeks. I am proud of the work we have done to develop the bipartisan Safe & Affordable Drinking Water Fund, which will permanently solve California's drinking water crisis. Californians deserve…and should expect… for us to lead on this vital human rights issue and not ignore a tragedy that impacts more than a million people. I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and the Legislature to get this issue resolved once and for all.”

Laurel Firestone of Community Water Center issued the following statement on today’s actions on behalf of the 140 environmental justice, agricultural, public health, business, labor, and water districts supporting the Fund:

"While we are disappointed that California’s drinking water crisis has been prolonged for so long, we are pleased that the Governor, legislative leadership, and a bipartisan majority of the Legislature remains strongly committed to the Safe & Affordable Drinking Water Fund and we appreciate the commitment to take action later in the Legislative Session. Nearly three-quarters of California voters are supportive of legislative action to address this issue now. We are confident the Governor and Legislature will not walk away from creating a permanent source of funding to ensure that all Californians have clean water, both now and for future generations. This problem is not going away and will only grow worse with further inaction."

Veronica Garibay of Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability added that communities throughout the state mustn’t have to wait any longer for clean drinking water. “The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund developed as a result of years of advocacy, years of lugging bottled water home, years of dirty tap water running into homes and schools. Dirty tap water cannot continue to be the reality for a million Californians; we expect a vote in favor of safe drinking water this summer.”

Ag Council President Emily Rooney said, “We are wholeheartedly committed to solving this crucial drinking water issue this year. We remain dedicated, along Governor Brown and over 140 other groups and community partners, to solving this ongoing problem for low-income and disadvantaged communities throughout the state. As the Sac Bee Editorial Board said on June 4, 'This is 21st century California. There is simply no excuse for water that isn’t safe.’"

“We have a strong bipartisan coalition committed to the creation of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund,” said Jennifer Clary of Clean Water Action. “We’re confident that our historic alliance will lead to a successful outcome.”

For more information, please visit

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Rallies Held for Safe and Affordable Drinking Water in Bakersfield and Merced

Dolores Huerta joined community members as they traveled to Bakersfield on May 11th to urge support for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.

On Friday of National Drinking Water Week, more than 60 people, including Dolores Huerta, came out to simultaneous rallies in Merced and Bakersfield to push for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. The San Joaquin Valley is hard hit by toxic tap water, and residents spoke out for change. The rallies were covered by many local news stations, including Bakersfield Now, KGET, The Bakersfield Californian, Your Central Valley, and The Merced Sun-Star. Residents spoke about living with unsafe and unaffordable drinking water, and about the need for legislators to support the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. It was a powerful day for the water justice movement and the perfect way to end National Drinking Water Week!

Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund Update

AGUA members traveled to Sacramento to meet with legislators and urge them to support the safe and affordable drinking water solutions.

This week, San Joaquin Valley residents traveled to Sacramento for the third time this year to urge their legislators to prioritize safe and affordable drinking water for ALL Californians by supporting the Governor's Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. In addition to meeting with legislators, residents attended an Assembly budget hearing to share their experience with unsafe and unaffordable water and urged the committee members to support the Fund. 

We are only three weeks away from a crucial point in this campaign, when the California legislature must pass the state budget, which currently includes language for creating the Fund. SJV residents will continue to lead the way to make sure this solution passes next month, alongside ally organizations, but we need your help!


Join the movement by taking 5 minutes to email your state legislator and tell them: In the sixth largest economy in the world, we can and must ensure that all Californians have access to safe and affordable drinking water. This crisis has gone on for far too long. Share with your friends and family to make sure we pass the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund this year!

California Budget Takes Steps to Address State’s Drinking Water Crisis




June 16, 2017


Dawn Van Dyke, (916) 447-2854 x 1011,
Jonathan Nelson, (530) 848-4460,

Advocates say they will continue to push for sustainable statewide funding
 source including SB 623 (Monning)

Sacramento, Calif. -- Water justice advocates and environmental, health, rural and equity organizations thank the California Legislature for including emergency drinking water funds in the 2017-18 state budget to continue to chip away at California’s drinking water crisis. The $17 million allocated will address many immediate needs, but advocates urge the legislature to enact a long-term, sustainable funding source to meet the ongoing needs of the state’s water systems. 

The budget includes $8 million to the State Water Board program for emergency replacement of domestic wells and emergency connections to community water systems; $4 million to the Department of Water Resources for emergency relief and $5 million to the Department of Social Services for an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) water benefit pilot program.

Drinking water advocates are especially grateful to Senator Ricardo Lara, Assemblymembers Richard Bloom and Dr. Joaquin Arambula for their leadership in securing this critical funding.

 “This is a critical step in maintaining a commitment to the vulnerable Californians most affected by the drought, and provides needed resources to continue work toward finding long term sustainable water solutions for them,” said Tom Collishaw, President/Chief Executive Officer, Self-Help Enterprises.

“The funds included in the state budget will ensure continued work to provide relief to the thousands of Californians still impacted by the worst drought in our state’s history, and those facing other water emergencies” said Stanley Keasling, Rural Community Assistance Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer.

“This important funding will help provide emergency drinking water solutions to those in urgent need” said Jonathan Nelson, Policy Director for the Community Water Center. “However, to truly deliver on the promise of the Human Right to Water, the Legislature needs to pass SB 623 (Monning with Principal Co-Author De Leon) this year in order to create a sustainable funding source that ensures all Californians have access to safe and affordable drinking water.” 

Hundreds of California communities are out of compliance with state and federal drinking water standards, and some communities have had arsenic flowing from their taps for more than a decade. The problem is particularly acute in rural, low-income communities throughout the state.

Studies have shown that adequate hydration is linked to students’ higher academic performance. Increased water consumption instead of sugar sweetened beverages like sodas, sports drinks, fruit drinks and flavored milks can help limit weight gain and prevent dental caries.

Despite Governor Brown’s official declaration ending California’s drought, in Central California alone, more than 1,000 residents remain without water. The funds included in this state budget will provide emergency relief including statewide well replacement, permanent connections to public systems, well abandonment and debt relief. 

"This budget also invests in an initiative to bring short-term relief to residents in poverty who have been living for years without safe drinking water, with supplemental CalFresh assistance. Struggling Californians can't afford to wait for long-term solutions. As we work towards sustainable infrastructure, this budget works to help those most in need." Tracey Patterson, Director of Legislation, California Food Policy Advocates.

"We're thrilled to see this continued commitment to safe, affordable and reliable drinking water and wastewater service. Communities that still can't access these fundamental services are fortunate to have champions in state government that are eager to tread alongside on their ongoing fight for the human right to water," said Phoebe Seaton, Co-Director, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

While this budget represents progress, California drinking water advocates will continue to work toward a sustainable funding source to finance much needed water infrastructure improvements for the more than one million Californians who continue to struggle with unsafe or unreliable water. 



Increased Access to Funding for Drinking Water Projects in Severely Disadvantaged Communities is Adopted at State Board


CONTACT: Debi Ores, (916)706-3346,  


Sacramento – This week, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) approved the 2017-2018 Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Intended Use Plan (DWSRF IUP).

The IUP continues the Board’s commitment to aiding water systems in need of assistance, in particular systems serving disadvantaged communities. The newly approved IUP creates a new designation of Expanded Small Community Water Systems for those that serve 10,000 – 20,000 residents or have between 3,300 and 6,600 service connections. These community systems are now eligible for principal forgiveness funding for up to 50% of their project costs. This will alleviate the financial burden facing already impoverished populations.

Community Water Center (CWC) has advocated for the State Water Board to allow severely disadvantaged communities larger than 10,000 residents to apply for grant funding for the last few years. The inability to receive grant funding creates huge issues for communities like Arvin, who are unable to afford the costs related to pure loan funding to remedy their drinking water problems. This year CWC worked with Assemblymember Salas to author a bill (AB 560) to require this increased funding access to larger SDACs.

“The action taken by the Water Board will bring relief to Arvin and other small communities throughout the Central Valley that have struggled to provide access to clean, affordable drinking water,” said Assemblymember Salas.  “I want to thank the Water Board, CWC and all the stakeholders that made this a reality." 

We thank Assemblymember Salas for his leadership in taking up the important cause of increased access to favorable financing options for some of the communities most in need of assistance in California. CWC is happy that due to Salas’ leadership and the SWRCB, larger SDACs will now have much-needed access to better funding options.

However, while this bill will help improve access for larger disadvantaged communities to receiving assistance for drinking water, California must take the next step of passing SB 623 (Monning), which will provide a new sustainable source of funding to meet longstanding gaps in drinking water funding. The DWSRF and other funding sources, like Prop 1, are limited pots of money reserved only for one-time costs, like capital infrastructure, leaving communities struggling to fund continued operations and maintenance without a funding source. SB 623 will help cover these funding gaps, furthering the goal of ensuring all Californian’s have access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water.


They Built It, But Couldn’t Afford To Run It—Clean Drinking Water Fight Focuses On Gaps In Funding


By Ezra David Romero & Kerry Klein

Published June 6, 2017

Read or listen to the full story HERE


In the third installment of the series Contaminated, KVPR focuses on the opportunities that would be presented and disasters avoided by passage of Senate Bill 623. The bill would establish the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, creating a pool of money to help cover long term water system costs for Californians who lack access to clean water.

This resource would help disadvantaged communities while avoiding failed infrastructure projects like the one seen in the community of Lanare. Although Fresno County approved $1.3 million for the initial construction costs of an arsenic treatment plant, Lanare was left without funding for operation and maintenance. This mistake led to closure of the plant a mere six months after its 2007 construction, ultimately failing to address the contamination faced by the population of 600.

Check out this article, which features a conversation with Community Water Center's Jonathon Nelson, to learn more about the proposed legislation, possible funding sources, and the fate of Lanare's water crisis.



'Lifeline' fee on bills urged to aid cleanup


By: Lewis Griswold
The Fresno Bee
February 7, 2017

blog_photo.jpgThe problem of contaminated drinking water in small communities such as Seville in Tulare County can be solved if the state establishes a safe drinking water fund similar to the Lifeline program for basic phone service, an advocacy group with roots in the Valley said Tuesday.

Like Flint, Mich., where lead contamination made headlines, “a drinking water crisis” in California also exists involving tap water contaminated with nitrates, arsenic and disinfection byproducts, said Laurel Firestone, co-director of the Community Water Center, which began in Visalia and has an office in Sacramento.

The problem of contaminated tap water is especially acute in the Central Valley, but about 300 communities and schools statewide are not meeting drinking water standards, she said.

Drinking the water can harm human health, she said.

“We are calling on state leaders to create a safe and affordable drinking water fund to ensure all communities have access to safe drinking water,” she said. “A reliable funding source is the biggest barrier to helping communities … get a reliable supply of water.”

The issue affects low-income communities disproportionately, and nitrate contamination disproportionately affects Latino communities, Firestone said.

On Tuesday, Community Water Center and other advocacy groups – Clean Water Actionbased in Oakland, Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, and the AQUA coalition – lobbied the Legislature about their proposal.

Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, whose district includes East Porterville where wells ran dry in the drought and where nitrates have been found in drinking water, issued a statement.

“Every Californian has a civil right to safe, clean, reliable drinking water,” he said. “I’m open to any ideas that seek a statewide solution to what is a statewide problem.”

To support their cause, the advocates released a poll showing public support for a safe drinking water fund.

The telephone poll of 1,000 people by landline and cellphone showed “strong majorities are willing to pay to fix drinking water contamination throughout the state with a fee on their water bill,” states a report by FM3, a public opinion polling company in Los Angeles and Oakland.

According to the poll, 57 percent of those surveyed would be willing to pay as much as $4 a month extra on their water bill.

Telephone utilities have Lifeline programs that provide discounted service to those who qualify that is covered via a small charge to phone bills.

“A program like that would be appropriate,” said Jennifer Clary, water programs manager for Clean Water Action. 

The fund could help fix water systems that have either man-made or natural contamination – the arsenic in the water supply for Kettleman City is naturally occurring, for instance.

Rebecca Quintana, who owns a home in Seville in Tulare County, went to Sacramento on Tuesday to lobby the Legislature on behalf of the idea. She said contaminated water has been a problem for 40 years.

“There are people coming down with rashes due to nitrates in the water,” she said.

Quintana’s story was part of a special report by former Bee reporter Mark Grossi. Grossi was a 2016 fellow for the Washington, D.C.-based Alicia Patterson Foundation. He is writing a series of stories that focus on the San Joaquin Valley’s rural areas where people face environmental challenges.

Quintana’s 34-year-old daughter, Regina Lujan, died of breast cancer and although the cause is a mystery, “throughout my pregnancy I did drink the water,” Quintana said Tuesday.

Nitrates in water in agricultural regions are caused by fertilizer applied to cropland, according to a 2012 study by the University of California, Davis.

The advocacy groups did not specifically mention agriculture at a news conference Tuesday but “we know we can’t solve the nitrate problem without agriculture being part of the solution,” said Jenny Rempel, director of education and engagement for Community Water Center, following the news conference.

$56 Million Package for 2016-17 Budget to Advance the Human Right to Water


Over one million Californians are impacted by unsafe water each year, and almost 13,000 Californians have completely run out of water during this drought.

Over the last two years, the state has committed significant funding and resources to address water challenges statewide, yet California’s small, low-income communities still experience challenges to accessing safe, affordable water. The Community Water Center and our partners are advocating for a one-time allocation of $56 million from the 2016-2017 budget to:

  • Provide permanent, interim, and emergency drinking water solutions for small, low-income communities and households,

  • Improve water access in schools,

  • Promote water and energy efficiency low-income communities and households, and

  • Improve data collection and management of California’s drinking water crisis.

Californians need an ongoing source of sustainable funding to secure safe, clean and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all communities. Until this ongoing source of funding is secured, however, our communities demand immediate investments through the 2016-2017 budget to meet our urgent drinking water needs. It is completely unacceptable that over one million Californians are impacted by unsafe water annually, and we need to act now to address this crisis.

Take action now! Click here. 

Follow the action on our Facebook and Twitter accounts using the hashtags:

#agua4all, #‎H2O4CAKids, #FundSafeH2O

Tulare County couple face summer without water as well runs dry

By Mark Grossi
Fresno Bee

(05/04/2014) PORTERVILLE — Outside her front door, Carmen Almanza has a postcard view of the Sierra Nevada and a huge pot of water for drinking, washing dishes and flushing the toilet.

Carmen, 79, and husband Al, also 79, have lived in this cozy house 33 years, raised seven children and never worried about water in ruralTulare County. But when the kitchen tap suddenly died one morning in early April, they knew their private well had run dry.

After a month of feverish calls, Carmen said she can't find help for a $15,000 loan to drill the well deeper. They've been living without running water ina kind of financial limbo.

Their small income covers their house payments, but it's too low to qualify for a federal loan and frustratingly too high for a grant. And most of California's $687 million drought-relief money comes from bonds, which authorities say cannot be given to individual residents.

Bottom line, the Almanzas are falling through a crack in a system that threatens to leave them dry in the sweltering San Joaquin Valley summer.

"We have relatives who want us to move in with them," Carmen said. "But we don't want to leave. We love it here. We raised our children here. We don't want a handout, just a little help."

Such stories are beginning to sprout throughout rural Valley areas as summer nears after one of the driest winters in decades.

There is precious little river water for farmers, who are now forced to pump groundwater to keep their fields alive. The water table is dropping swiftly in farm country.

Tulare County leaders said they are in drought triage. They said more than a dozen private well owners are looking for help, and many others may not have reported their problem yet. In other words, this could get worse.

"The county is very concerned," said Eric Coyne of the Tulare County Economic Development Office. "We're searching for state and federal funding, but there is very little relief designed for private well owners."

How many people are losing wells at their rural homes around the Valley and California? Nobody knows. Government agencies don't track private wells in any detail.

California regulates 95% of the water sources — cities, small water systems and public utility districts — but not an estimated 600,000 private wells serving 1.4 million people.

Tulare County has more than 20,000 private wells, according to a 2006 State Water Resources Control Board study that was updated last year.

Counties issue permits for building and disposing of wells. Stanislaus County is beginning to study a groundwater management plan that might include financial help for private well owners.

But generally counties don't have the money to drill new wells for rural residents. In counties where the drought hits hardest, leaders also are focused on trying to find help for entire communities, in addition to working with private well owners.

The Almanzas' dry well has been discussed at length with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center, which is trying to help the couple.

Sally Tripp, a rural development specialist with USDA, said her department is looking for a suitable funding category.

"We're trying to be creative to see if they can fit into a program where we have some flexibility," she said. "We've had lots of calls about private wells — more calls, by far, than we have had in the last few years."

State leaders also are trying to find solutions for private well owners by helping to fund extensions to public drinking water systems, though that option may not work for the Almanzas.

The California Department of Public Health said it could help 15 or more homes consolidate into a drinking water system that could get funding. CDPH also said it is prepared to work through local public agencies to provide private well owners with interim water.

Even if they had the money, the Almanzas would be waiting in line with many others who need a well drilled. The wait list is six months to a year, county and federal officials say.

But the elderly couple on a fixed income needs assistance right now, said the Community Water Center, a Visalia advocacy group that specializes in helping rural, low-income residents and communities of color.

"Drought relief from the state and federal government is wonderful, but nobody is looking to help the people hit the hardest," said Maria Herrera, community advocacy director at the center. "Why is it that the burden falls on these individuals and advocacy groups to find a way?"

The well at the back of the Almanza property is about 75 feet deep, and it has provided water since at least the early 1980s. After it went dry, a nearby neighbor let them hook up to his water supply until his private well began to fail.

"The wells are all having a problem in this area," said Al, who had been a gardener and landscaper until a few years ago when crippling arthritis in his knees and back left him unable to work.

Now, one of the Almanzas' sons, Victor, 54, fills plastic-lined trash cans with water from his hose in Porterville and hauls them out to his parents' house every few days.

On the walls of their home, Carmen and Al have photographs of the Almanza children, including shots of those who have been in the military. There also are treasured portraits of themselves, dating back to 1950.

In their kitchen, the Almanzas often use paper plates to avoid dishwashing after meals.

Al leans on his walker and watches as Carmen, his wife of 57 years, struggles to lift a bucket of water from the front yard. She hauls it to the pink-painted bathroom and dumps it into the toilet to flush.

"If I could do something, just to go back to work," says Al, "I would."



UPDATE: Due to this story being run in local news, numerous people have stepped forward offering assistance to the Almanza family and soon a new well will be drilled at their home free of charge. Read about it HERE.

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