In California, and especially the Central Valley, water is life. Six years of extreme drought emphasized the value of water for us all.
One year of amazing record rainfall reminded us how precious life giving water is, as our fields were planted again and our parks and playgrounds turned green once again.
So imagine, as a school board member, how shocked I was to learn in a 2017 report by the U.S. Water Alliance, that one in four Central California schools have been impacted by unsafe drinking water.
No amount of rain will solve the water crisis for a million Californians exposed to contaminated drinking water. The State Water Resources Control Board reports that 300 water supply systems are delivering hazardous water below state and federal drinking water standards.
All together, the public health impact of these untreated water systems is greater than the crisis in Flint, Mich.
The majority of communities bearing the brunt of unsafe drinking water are poor, rural, or disadvantaged; unable to invest in or sustain proper water treatment systems or upgrade decrepit water infrastructure that contributes to their water problems.
This contamination and its causes are statewide and diverse. This water is tainted with lead, nitrates, hexavalent chromium, arsenic, uranium, and more, caused by everything from out of date production practices, to transportation, to nature itself.
Just recently some water customers in Bakersfield were advised to boil water due to E. coli being detected. Additionally, the chemical 1,2,3,-TCP presents a risk to local water and health.
While it is easy to stand back and point the finger of blame at a single individual, business, or industry, placing blame does not help our school kids, friends, and neighbors escape continual health risks.
The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund (SB 623; Sen. Monning, D - Carmel) will help solve some of California’s water issues by creating a mechanism to raise and distribute money specifically to create clean, safe, and affordable water for these communities.
By addressing source point pollution through fees on fertilizer, creating a new regulatory framework for investing in better farm and business practices to reduce impacts on groundwater and maintain California’s dominant farm economy, and by recovering less than a dollar a month on utility bills, we can deliver safe, clean, water for all Californians.
Supporters include public health organizations such as the American Heart Association; environmental and urban advocacy organizations such as the Community Water Coalition, Clean Water Action, and Familias Unidas de California; agricultural organizations such as Western United Dairymen, Western Growers Association, California Citrus Mutual, and California Fresh Fruit Association. This bill recently passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote.
In the Central Valley, we know water is life. It is the foundation for the health and success of our communities, businesses, families and children. Call your elected representatives and express your support for SB 623, The Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund act by Sen. Bill Monning.
Jeff Flores is a Kern High School District trustee.