More than 920,000 California residents face an increased risk of cancer and other health ailments due to a lack of safe, clean drinking water, according to a new state audit. The health risks are especially pronounced in low-income communities, particularly in San Bernardino County, Imperial County, and eight counties in the Central Valley.
More than 370 systems failed to meet water quality standards as of December 2021 and more than 400 are currently at risk of failing. Over 150 water systems have failed to meet standards for at least five years, signifying a “lack of urgency” that was slammed by Acting State Auditor Michael Tilden in his Tuesday report.
Millions of dollars have been allocated to expand Californians' access to safe water. But according to the report, it took an average of 33 months for water systems to apply for the funds and for the California State Water Resources Control Board to approve their requests. Tilden partly blamed a “cumbersome” application process by the board. As the state’s drought persists, the clean drinking water crisis will worsen, Tilden said.
The report recommends that the water board eliminate unnecessary steps and documentation from its application process and develop a fast-track system for urgent projects.
State Water Board Executive Director Eileen Sobeck acknowledged the need for changes but disputed Tilden’s claim that her agency lacks a sense of urgency.
Read more at CalMatters.