Clean water is a fundamental human right, but hundreds of thousands of Californians are left to drink water contaminated with hazardous waste and other deadly pollutants. A report from California’s Water Resources Control Board states that over three-hundred water systems are failing, which will cause people to drink water contaminated with PFAS, which are fluorinated chemicals known as “forever chemicals.” Consuming these chemicals can cause people to develop cancer, kidney disease, and liver disease. Moreover, an update from the Legislative Analyst’s Office for California has found that smaller water systems that deliver unsafe drinking water are more likely to be placed in Latino and rural communities as these areas are more likely to be lower-income and possess fewer resources. Policies such as the New Drinking Water fund have allocated 130 million dollars to ensure that clean and affordable drinking water is a right all Californians have. Research and innovations from California’s academic institutions have also aimed to tackle this crisis. Ultimately, addressing the water crisis requires a paradigm shift that requires policymakers to focus on equality when implementing policies.
As alluded to above, the clean water crisis hits rural, Latino, and lower-income communities the hardest. The statistics cited in the introduction paragraph are just the tip of the iceberg. Less than 9% of wells have been tested for PFAS. Furthermore, it’s difficult to test at home. These tests are often quite expensive, which means the people hardest hit from this crisis can’t afford to test water themselves. In Pico Rivera, a city east of Los Angeles that is 91% Latino, schools have been drinking unclean water, which means that kids have been exposed to levels of hazardous material that will cause cancer and a myriad of other health problems. Clearly, the inherently discriminatory nature of California’s Water Crisis must be swiftly dealt with as no child deserves to suffer from such adverse health risks.
Luckily, innovations have been made and some policies have been effective in attempting to mitigate this crisis. For example, researchers from UC Berkeley have developed an inexpensive way to test for arsenic in water. Furthermore, The New Drinking Water Fund has identified and allocated funding to ensure that old water infrastructure gets updated. Additionally, there are solutions to mitigate discrimination in clean water policy. For example, the California’s legislature recommends collecting additional research to ensure that environmental racism isn’t occurring.
Ultimately, the water crisis is dire, but academic institutions and effective policies can play a role in ensuring that generations of Californians have safe and affordable cleaning water for generations to come. Biases in allocation of water can be tackled if enough research and effort is applied to this. Ultimately, every Californian deserves to live in a state that protects their health and safety, and their health and safety can not be protected unless Californian policymakers implement environmentally just policies.