Unequal Water Rights in CaliforniaWater
California, considered one of the most beautiful and geographically diverse states in America, has a fascinating history. With close to 40 million inhabitants, it has one of the largest economies in the world, a place that some of the richest individuals on the planet call home.
Given these characteristics, some may find it surprising that areas of this so-called utopia are among the most unequal in the United States. This relates not only to the cost of living and income, but also other important factors that directly impact health, such as pollution & water contamination.
When we looked at the history of public water in Los Angeles earlier this year, we heard back from readers via social media and email who were interested in an overview of the state. Concerns around industrialisation, farming and infrastructure decline were among the topics that were mentioned.
The history of the state is complicated. Over the past five hundred years, the territory has changed hands four times – from the indigenous to European settlers, to the Spanish, the Mexicans, and from 1848 onward, it was welcomed as part of the United States of America.
Inspired by westward expansion, and the possibility of achieving the American Dream, many citizens and immigrants settled over the past one hundred and seventy years. Over generations, a handful of urban metropolises near the coast, plus smaller and mid-sized cities further inland, evolved.
Of these, methodology from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Working group (considering the largest two hundred cities in the country), has found that California is home to seven locations in the United States that are considered to have the worst drinking water.
These cities include: Pomona, Corona, Bakersfield, Fresno, Irvine, Pasadena, and Modesto.
In the latter, drinking fountains at the local elementary school were covered with clear plastic, deterring students, teachers and visitors from consuming contaminated water.
In the Central Valley, the backbone of a state which is known as one of the agricultural capitals on the world, residents are complaining not only about the water, but greed.
In East Orosi, low-income farm workers and other working class people are part of those impacted.
“Clean water flows toward power and money,” Susana De Anda, a longtime water-rights organizer, told the New York Times. “Homes, schools and clinics are supposed to be the safest places to go. But not in our world.”
And in a powerful and large state, this seems to be a growing trend, as inequality was spawned not only by agriculture in the middle of the state, but Silicon Valley in the Bay Area and the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Of course, this is not only limited to the west coast, as cities in the east, such as Newark, New Jersey, deal with their own nightmares.
Recently, the California State Water Resources Control Board reported that more than 300 public water systems in the state serve unsafe drinking water. According to public health officials, more than one million people are exposed to unsafe drinking water each year.
While California has perks, it also has many concerns to address. If anything, these localized concerns should be addressed head on, understanding that it will be a long, complicated and costly project that will impact each community in a different way.
One thing, however, is for certain: giving American citizens clean water is the only way forward.
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