Access to Safe Drinking Water in the Central Valley
- CalEPA is funding Iris Stewart-Frey and California Rural Legal Assistance to identify and remove barriers to safe drinking water in the San Joaquin Valley.
Iris Stewart-Frey (of SCU’s Department of Environmental Studies & Sciences, and the Environmental Justice and the Common Good Initiative) and community partners from California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) have received a $49,999 award from the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA). The grant will support a project to better understand and remove barriers to accessing safe drinking water for disadvantaged rural communities impacted by nitrate and drought in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
Stewart-Frey and CRLA will inform CV-SALTS, a water quality regulatory program aimed at reducing nitrate levels in groundwater and providing emergency replacement drinking water for impacted residents, who currently face extreme drought conditions, which are likely to become more frequent under climate change.
The project will involve undergraduate student interns and community members in spatial analysis, surveys, and focus groups to understand communities’ experiences with water access, water quality (especially as affected by nitrate), drought impacts, and the CV-Salts program's outreach effectiveness. As drought is currently not included in the early action plan of the CV-SALTS process, the research will further illuminate the impact of the 2021 drought and climate change on disadvantaged unincorporated communities to inform future climate-resilient policy strategies.
Stewart-Frey and CRLA’s Nicholas Jensen presented the project at the All-In Conference, which focuses on community-engaged research, held in October 2022 at University of California - Santa Cruz. The presentation highlighted how Stewart-Frey’s data analysis and mapping will inform CRLA’s filing of public comments on regulatory plans, community outreach, and fundraising. Both partners emphasized the importance of greater data transparency by state agencies.
Image: Central Valley Well.
Photo credit: J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue