May 11, 2015
More than one million California residents who live in mostly rural communities do not have reliable access to safe drinking water.
How is that possible in California, which has the most highly developed infrastructure to transport water in the world, including thousands of dams, along with entire networks of canals, tunnels and pumps?
The reason for this has nothing to do with the severe drought. Instead, the supply of water that these rural communities depend on has been polluted by corporate-run farms that use huge amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These chemicals leach into the soil and contaminate the underground water table. So does the waste material generated by huge feed lots for dairy, cattle and pigs.
Adding to this toxic mix in other communities is the oil industry. Oil companies have been injecting millions of gallons of dangerous chemicals left over from the fracking process back into the deep underground. Despite assurances from public officials and the oil industry about how safe this was supposed to be, the chemicals are now making their way into the water supply of surrounding communities.
So, not only can’t one million people drink the water, they often can’t even bathe in it, or use it to flush their toilets, without risking their health. This means that just to survive, families are forced to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on potable water, and under conditions comparable to those of the poor countries of the Third World.
This threat goes way beyond the one million people living in impoverished rural communities.
Ordinarily, more than half the water that is used in the state of California comes from underground aquifers. That amount can be as high as two-thirds of the water used in the state during dry years. Not only do 16 million people in the state depend on it for drinking water, but also underground water is considered by the state government as “the single most important resource contributing to the state economy.”
Everything depends on it.
And yet, important parts of that resource are being degraded and destroyed by industry and agriculture, in their mad rush to increase their profits and wealth.