We all take for granted our access to clean drinking water. We are familiar with TV commercials that ask for our daily one-penny donations to provide clean water to children in third world countries. What we don’t realize is that access to clean drinking water isn’t just a problem in these foreign countries but much closer to home. Groundwater dischargers in some parts of the state of California have threatened clean drinking water supplies of low-income communities for years. A new Senate Bill offers hope to those living below the poverty line without access to clean water.
An article written by Tara Lohan, published on WaterDeeply.com, describes how roughly 100 people yielding signs that read “Agua Limpia” and “Clean Water” congregated on the steps of the California Capitol in support for Senate Bill 623, the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. An estimated 200,000 people in low-income towns in California’s farm belt are burdened with contaminated water supplies from agricultural pesticides, arsenic and other toxins.
“The bill, introduced by state senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel), is backed by the unlikely alliance of environmental justice groups and agriculture – two sides that have often sparred over environmental regulations. On this day, the state Assembly’s Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee was set to vote on the legislation.” (Lohan)
If signed into law, SB 623 would establish a new funding source for communities that are unable to obtain safe drinking water. Unlike a bond, the fund can provide resources to pay for operation and maintenance of water treatment plants. Additionally, it would prioritize assistance to low-income communities and low-income residents who rely on private wells.
“But the bill is not without its opponents. The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), which represents public water agencies, and 20 of its member agencies oppose the bill in its current form. They object to the legislation’s inclusion of private wells and county-regulated small water systems, and a possible plan to raise money for the fund by assessing a fee on water bills – a detail that’s not yet in the legislation but could be added soon.” (Lohan)
Communities in need, like Alpaugh, are aware that someone will have to pay and even though most residents live below the poverty line they are prepared to step up. Sandra Meraz, a resident of Alpaugh since 1957, describes a town that looks dead with no grass or flowers and a struggling community trying to pay for rising water costs.
“They have to raise it – we understand it,” says Meraz. “We need safe, clean water, but we also need assistance.” She says some community members, especially those with children, are struggling to pay new water rates. “We don’t want people moving out and we don’t want people shut down because they can’t pay the water.” (Lohan)
Monning defends oppositions with the fact that fees on water bills will be extremely modest. Additionally, a fee levied from agricultural producers is meant to address groundwater contamination in some parts of the state where nitrogen-based fertilizers and animal waste spread on farm fields have leached unsafe levels of nitrate underground. MaxWell drywells are a low-impact, low-cost solution for California’s groundwater issues.
MaxWell® drywells appear on many projects in Southern California that are increasing the capacity for aquifer recharge. Today we use MaxWell drywells to manage stormwater as a resource, provide flood control, prevent downstream flooding, improve water quality, and promote groundwater recharge.