Five years ago, California became the first state in the nation to recognize the human right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water. Today, we look at how the state is working to ensure that right and where the biggest concerns for Californians are.
The California Water Resources Control Board’s records show more than 266 water suppliers were not in compliance with drinking-water standards as of May 2018. Most of the violations were in the rural agricultural regions of the state.
“The central part of the state has many more water systems,” said Robert Brownwood, a deputy director for the sState Water Resources Control Board. “In California, any supply system that supplies five or more homes is a public water system. There are many small water systems in agricultural lands where pesticides, chemicals and organic compounds are often found in the water.”
The state’s Division of Drinking Water has about 260 engineers checking water quality throughout the state. Some cities have their own engineers. Los Angeles’ engineers conducts hundreds of tests daily. Orange County has about 50 water systems serving 3 million people, while Tulare County has 356 water systems serving less than 500,000 people.
The testing in many areas is done on an honor system in which water is sent routinely to labs across the state for monitoring. Those that do not comply or are found to falsify tests could be fined.
Mapping our water quality
If the water in your area is found to be in violation, a written notice will be sent to you. The maps below show where public water systems have had violations or are in compliance.
You can see these maps online or search for water board exceedance/compliance status.
Counties with most water systems in 2014:1. Sonoma, 4252. Tulare, 3563. Kern, 3524. San Bernardino, 3434. Los Angeles, 3436. Monterey, 327
The most violations per county were in Fresno, Stanislaus, Madera, Tulare and Kern counties.
What’s being tested
You might find contaminants in any tap water, but the type and level of contamination is what regular testing attempts to regulate. Some violations in California water-supply systems are for excessive amounts of uranium, arsenic and nitrates.The bulk of the testing is for two types of health hazards:1. Acute risks: Types of containments (giardia, E. coli) that can cause sickness or death after one glass of water.2. Long-term risk: Types of containments (lead, arsenic and uranium) that if consumed in three liters of water a day can increase cancer risk.Funding is available from the state for water systems that are trying to get their systems in compliance.
Lead in schools
The state of California has required community water systems to conduct lead sampling of drinking water in all public K-12 schools by July 2019 (with the exception of schools that have already sampled since 2009, schools that provide their own water supply or schools that were built or modified after 2010).This map built by ESRI shows where schools have had lead in their water higher than 15 parts per billion.