GroundTruth Blog

Guest blog: California communities want clean water

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by Maricela Morales

HarvestDo you need clean and safe water? So do farmworker communities along California's central coast. Yet for far too long, their water has been polluted and contaminated by unsustainable agricultural practices.

This week, our organization is joining with partners to press the Regional Water Quality Board to address the severe water pollution problems the communities in this region face. A new Agricultural Waiver that would help has been under study, review and discussion for the past four years. Now it's time for local policymakers to take action.

The Ag Waiver requires growers to develop a water quality management plan and report basic information (like farm acreage and crops) to local officials. But the system officially expired in 2009, and has not been enforced since — and the health of central coast communities is on the line.

Our group, the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, is working with the Environmental Justice Water Coalition and Clean Water Action California to advance environmental human rights for central coast communities through the immediate adoption of a strong and enforceable Ag Waiver.

As discussed on KQED's forum show this morning, the California Central Coast Regional Water Quality Board will take up the issue when it meets this Wednesday and Thursday, March 14-15.

Latino communities most at risk

All or most of the water pollution in the entire 300 mile central coast area from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz is concentrated in Santa Maria and the Salinas Valley. That’s 20% of the population having to bear the burden of polluted and contaminated water for the rest of the 80%. Not only that, but Santa Maria and the communities in the Salinas Valley are 75-100% Latino, compared to 41% Latino for the central coast region as a whole.

The water contamination problem in Santa Maria and the Salinas Valley is a matter of grave environmental human rights abuse that must be addressed.

Take Action » If you live in California's central coast region, please join us in supporting environmental human rights for farmworker communities by attending the March 14-15th meeting of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Board. The meetings begin at 9:30am at the Embassy Suites Hotel (333 Madonna Road) in San Luis Obispo. If you're not able to attend but want to express your support, call the office of the CCR Water Quality Board at 805-549-3147.

Maricela Morales is the Acting Executive Director of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE).