Arsenic, nitrates, coliform, hexavalent chromium, and other contaminants taint the water that runs through tens of thousands of taps in homes and schools throughout California. In the face of the recent drought and long-term changes to precipitation and groundwater levels, many households reliant on private wells find their well dry or at risk of running dry.
Many Californians have no access to reliable and safe wastewater treatment but instead rely on outdated and often failing septic systems, which are on land parcels too small to sustain waste treatment through onsite treatment and disposal systems. The threat to public health runs high in these communities with fecal coliform and other bacteria lingering in the soil and threatening drinking water sources.
Often, lower income communities and small communities face the biggest barriers to securing safe and reliable drinking water as the costs of treatment and new wells are out of reach. At the same time, continued pollution– such as the case with nitrates from fertilizers and animal waste – exacerbates the drinking water crisis in California. Yet, the cost of drinking water continues to increase. Because so many Californians must buy bottled water for drinking and cooking, the economic security of families throughout the state has become unstable.
We advocate for funding to address the costs associated with drinking water and wastewater service, while also addressing the root causes of service inequality and deficiency: land use, local government, over-pumping of the aquifer, and pollution. Our work includes legal advocacy to protect drinking water sources from agricultural pollution and state level advocacy to secure funding for drinking water and wastewater service and infrastructure. We also advocate for land use planning and policies that prioritize drinking water and wastewater service to communities without adequate services, and we provide legal support to communities negotiating with cities and service providers for improved services.