As if Californians haven’t had enough problems with drinking water thanks to the drought conditions over recent years, what’s left of the water reserves in some areas are now said to be toxic. The Washington Post published an article this past summer about how the drought is hitting the poor the hardest and leaving them with toxic water. Residents without a drinking water system are at risk of highly contaminated drinking water in part due to the low water levels. Drinking water contamination can affect just about anyone, anywhere with little to no warning.
For example, people in the St. Anthony Trailer Park, 40 miles south of Palm Springs, have learned of arsenic in the groundwater which fills their community well. Normally, the arsenic levels are low and safe to drink, but the drought has created a serious problem in that farmers have taken more water from the ground and concentration of arsenic is becoming more potent. Arsenic in drinking water is a significant issue when the concentration exceeds the safe levels. It has been linked to various cancers of the bladder, lungs and skin when consumed in high doses. It is also known to cause birth defects and attack the nervous system.
It is near areas of farming where fertilizers and animal waste run off into groundwater that contributes to the problems. Californians have dealt well with some of the inconveniences due to these drought conditions, but the article identifies two rural valleys, the Coachella southeast of Los Angeles and the San Joaquin to the north, where the farmworkers and other poor residents are feeling its impact in a far more serious and personal way. Tulare County, in southern San Joaquin Valley, is literally a land without water, a real-life example of a future many Californians fear as scientists warn of a possible decades-long mega-drought.
Tanks of water have already been installed in about 1200 homes but still over half of the households there do not have water. Every day, the county puts 3,000 gallons of non-potable water in two tanks at different locations where needed, so that some of those residents can fill drums and buckets for basic uses such as flushing toilets. Can you imagine living in such conditions?
These are serious issues that deserve serious fixes. Arsenic in drinking water must be addressed and promptly. Homes in rural areas where the risk of arsenic is now a reality need filtered drinking water. No one living in drought conditions can afford to wait any longer. Toxic water deserves a drinking water system which can handle the severity of the problems identified in this article.