1.3 million people in the San Joaquin Valley are impacted by nitrate concentration in their drinking water.
Yes, approximately one million people in California lack reliable access to clean water; and 1 in 10 people living in California's agricultural areas is at risk of exposure to harmful levels of nitrate contamination in their drinking water, according to a report released in March 2012 by the University of California, Davis. According to the Pacific Institute, more than 1.3 million people in the San Joaquin Valley, mostly in poor farming communities, are impacted by unsafe drinking water due to nitrate contamination.
Because of decades of intensive agricultural operations, along with mega-dairies, the shallow ground water tables have been polluted by pesticides, fertilizers, and other pollutants. Adding to the problem is naturally occurring arsenic levels in the ground that render the water tables unsafe. The UC Davis report states that nitrate contamination from agricultural sources would likely contaminate more than 80% of the local population’s drinking water supplies by 2050 if practices do not change and new sources are not developed. Unsafe water is responsible for everything from diarrheal spectrum illnesses, to pesticide poisoning, to arsenic deaths. As a result, these residents shoulder a disproportionate amount of risk and health care expenses. According to Blue Planet Network member Community Water Center, 19% of San Joaquin Valley residents live in poverty. The average family makes about $13,000 a year. Throughout the San Joaquin Valley, people are paying up to 10% of their income just to be able to provide safe water for their families.
For more photos of effects of unsafe water in the San Joaquin Valley, visit our photo blog, Stories of Water.
Blue Planet Network and its member, Community Water Center in San Joaquin Valley, are creating community-driven water solutions to mitigate the threat of nitrate and arsenic groundwater contamination in the San Joaquin Valley by providing alternative water filtration solutions, sustainable support, and financing. With safe drinking and cooking water, the project is helping to lower the rate of serious illness and improve overall community health for more than 3,500 residents and students in some of the State’s poorest communities and schools in the San Joaquin Valley.
The project is piloting cost-efficient under-the-sink reverse osmosis units and high-volume vending filtration systems for households, daycare centers and schools. These water filtration systems are combined with a community engagement program to ensure sustainability. After extensive surveying, these communities have been chosen because of their high levels of nitrate and arsenic groundwater contamination. The homes of families in the town of Monson are being fitted with Point-of-Use water filters, in partnership with local Rotary Clubs. Additionally, reverse osmosis point-of-use and other high-volume filtration systems will serve thousands of children and students at 4 elementary schools and several preschools/daycare centers in neighboring communities in Kern and Tulare Counties.
Jessica Sanchez's family moved to East Orosi 12 years ago and has never had clean drinking water. Community Water Center hopes to change that.
Eunice Martinez, a 47-year-old woman who lives in the rural community of Tooleville in Central California, and her family have not been able to drink the tap water since 2002 when the city told her it was unsafe. If they do, or if the children drink the water from a hose on a hot summer day, they get stomach cramps, skin rashes, and severe diarrhea. "We miss drinking the tap water," says Eunice.
Esther Ceballos, the mother of three children, the youngest being a two-year-old baby, constantly worries about her baby drinking the water by accident and getting sick. "We are afraid of the water because we have to be," stated Esther.
"Laura Garcia was halfway through the breakfast dishes when the spigot went dry. The small white tank beneath the sink that purified her undrinkable water had run out. Still, as annoying as that was, it was an improvement over the days before Ms. Garcia got her water filter, when she had to do her dishes using water from five-gallon containers she bought at a local store." Read more in an article published on May 10, 2013 by The New York Times.
Community Water Center is using Blue Planet Network's online technology platform and reporting tools to manage and track this project. The communities will be trained to do the reporting so they can be in charge of their own water supply. If an issue arises, it will be identified and resolved. The project plan also was peer evaluated by several of
Blue Planet Network's expert water organization members to make it as sustainable as possible. We hope to document this project in detail so that it can be used by other communities as an example to bring more sustainable safe drinking water to the San Joaquin Valley.
Photo credits: Sara Cozolino