Safe and affordable drinking water is a basic human right. Yet studies show that much of our drinking water supply both within California and nationwide is polluted. Fertilizers, weed killers, industrial solvents, refrigerants, perchlorate (a component of rocket fuel), illicit drugs, and many other harmful and toxic substances have consistently been found in water supplied to the public. Unsurprisingly, experts say that polluted (contaminated) drinking water can lead to myriad negative health effects such as gastrointestinal diseases, developmental delays in children, reproductive harm, nervous system damage, and cancer.
In our Golden State, nearly one million residents lack access to safe, affordable drinking water – a fact that should be fiction in a state with the fifth largest economy in the world. The State Water Board admits this while also disclosing that more than 300 communities and schools in our state lack access to safe drinking water and that unsafe drinking water can be found in nearly every county.
Additionally, California households find it increasingly difficult to afford their water as the retail cost has risen substantially over the last decade and is expected to rise significantly over the coming years. Hundreds of thousands of Californians cannot afford to pay their water bill. In 2019 alone, an estimated 350,000 Californians had their water shut off due to the inability to pay. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has only added another layer of stress and struggle; you cannot wash your hands and shelter in place without access to water.
CCKA fights for drinkable water by expanding and defending California’s environmental laws to protect clean and abundant water, and by defending our right to clean water through the Clean Water Act. CCKA is working with the Universities of California Irvine and Riverside to develop a water rates and affordability white paper and roundtable that will be finalized later this year. As part of this project, CCKA analyzed the extent of household water shutoffs across California counties to highlight the urgent need to address water shutoffs and affordability in our state. CCKA hopes to build off of this work, in partnership with our environmental justice allies, to build a coalition and introduce reforms to create a low-income rate assistance program for underserved communities in California.
At the state and local levels, CCKA advocates to protect our drinking water sources from ongoing pollution through much-needed reform of Agricultural Orders and other permits – and not letting the State and Regional Water Boards off the hook when policies and permits fail to produce actual improvements in water quality. At the same time, CCKA is ensuring private actors, such as agricultural farms, are in compliance with the state’s existing agricultural laws, and are made to answer for their significant, collective role in the polluting of the state’s drinking water supply, harming individual California residents and rural communities.
At the federal level, by way of a recent federal drinking water settlement, CCKA has held the EPA accountable for its missed deadlines in reviewing and regulating drinking water contaminants, and has negotiated an action plan with the EPA that includes, among other things, the EPA to propose regulatory determinations for at least five contaminants, to consider revising the chromium regulation, and to propose and promulgate the microbial rule revisions.