Target: California Governor Jerry Brown
Goal: Improve water quality in California’s poor and rural communities
After a drought-ridden summer in California, many low-income residents are still without clean drinking water. More than one million people live in areas where the water is contaminated with arsenic from geological sources or nitrates from fertilizer runoff. These people have no choice but to rely on expensive bottled water or drink tap water contaminated with chemicals that may cause birth defects. Demand that California Governor Jerry Brown improve access to clean water in low-income areas.
In 1996, Congress created the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which gave California $1.5 billion to spend on improving drinking water infrastructure across the state but $455 million of that is unaccounted for. The California Department of Public Health claims that the money has been spent, while the State Water Resources Control Board claims it hasn’t—currently, no documentation is available.
The EPA reprimanded California in 2013 for not complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act, but it seems that non-compliance has not been addressed internally. The state has not drafted a new drinking water plan since the 1990s. The state needs to address this issue immediately, as low-income families struggle to afford bottled water to replace their inadequately treated tap water. There’s no excuse for letting low-income people fall by the wayside like this; these communities are often rural and are served by small water agencies with limited budgets. That doesn’t mean they should be ignored—as part of the state of California, they should be benefitting from the state’s budget for improving water quality as well.
California’s government needs to address this issue immediately. One department claims the money has been spent, one department claims it hasn’t, and poor communities have to drink tainted water while the state argues over where the money went. Urge Governor Brown to step up and make clean drinking water a priority for the state and its residents.
Dear Governor Brown,
Access to clean drinking water is something we take for granted in the US, but millions of Californians are currently living without it. In poor communities, particularly rural ones, water treatment is often more expensive than these communities can afford. That means that arsenic from geological sources and nitrates from fertilizer runoff can contaminate tap water and force low-income families to buy expensive bottled water or risk illness.
The Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund should have eliminated this—in 1996, the fund gave California $1.5 billion to improve drinking water infrastructure. To date, $455 million of that remains unaccounted for. The California Department of Public Health claims the money has already been spent while the State Water Resources Control Board claims it hasn’t. This money needs to be found immediately and, if it hasn’t been spent, needs to be put toward improving the water treatment of low-income communities.
California has been reprimanded by the EPA in the past for failing to adequately comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. It’s time to fix this by finding the missing $455 million and putting it where it belongs: supporting water treatment in poor communities. If the money has already been spent, please use your platform to push for more improvements to low-income water treatment. We can’t let people get sick just because they live in rural areas; safe drinking water is something everyone should have access to.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: DFID – UK Department for International Development via Wikimedia Commons