In California, thousands of people in dozens of communities have contaminated water with the potential to cause cancer, birth defects, and multiple health problems. The water is known to be unsafe to drink, yet families still pay for it—and often the cost is a significant portion of their income. These families then must drive miles to purchase bottled water to drink, and still must use the contaminated water for household purposes like bathing and washing dishes.
Last year, California signed legislation making access to water a human right—one of the only states in the nation to do so. Federal and state sources have dedicated billions of dollars to study the problems, build water treatment plants (although in small towns like Lanare, treatment plants close if they cost too much to operate), and explore the feasibility of local and regional solutions. Yet despite this funding, widespread problems of contaminated water continue in these communities. In Lanare, contamination is caused by naturally-occurring arsenic which leaches into well water. Lanare is a small, unincorporated town with a tiny population, and although its residents organized to address this problem, clean water is still out of their reach—despite potentially successful solutions.
Who is responsible for the water that comes out of your tap?
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