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Making Our Way Toward Water Justice: Leaders Who Advance Solutions

Water Justice.

Water – noun wa·ter \ˈwȯ-tər, ˈwä-\: the clear liquid that has no color, taste, or smell, that falls from clouds as rain, that forms streams, lakes, and seas, and that is used for drinking, washing, growing food, etc.

Justice – noun jus·tice \ˈjəs-təs\:  the quality of being just, impartial, or fair

For many, water flows through our lives without a second thought – morning coffee, daily showers, dinner dishes, and more. But for some, turning on the tap doesn’t always guarantee a steady flow of this life-sustaining resource. This is the current reality for many living in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The tap has run dry for residents of East Porterville, while others in the Central Valley are forced to drink water that’s been contaminated with life-threatening nitrates and pesticides. Where is the justice in this?

The answer: there is no justice in the water allocation system we’ve created.

Fortunately, there are many organizations working to solve the problem of water justice in these communities. Enter the Community Water Center. This organization is the driving force behind creating real solutions that effectively dismantle the existing structures that perpetuate water injustice in Central Valley communities. To honor the community leaders that are working on-the-ground to improve the quality of life for their residents, the Community Water Center hosted their “Water Justice Celebration” in October 2015.

This award ceremony “acknowledged the courage and hard work of residents, organizations, and elected officials who are striving to ensure their communities have access to water during California’s devastating drought.” Those honored included Michael Prado, President of the Sultana Community Services District & AGUA Coalition Member, who is bringing regional water solutions to scale in order to bring clean water to struggling communities; Paul Boyer and David Mendez of the Self-Help Enterprises Program who develop funding for water and sewer projects for disadvantaged communities in the Central Valley, including water tank installations for residents whose wells have gone dry; and Greg Gomez, Mayor of Farmersville, who helped nearby neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony by consolidating the two community water systems.

These individuals, and countless others, dedicate their time and energy to instilling water justice in California water culture and beyond. As we have witnessed from past and present droughts, the American West will experience the impacts of climate change most acutely through our water supply. Communities in the Central Valley, along with many other low-income western communities, have been and will continue to be the first to feel these impacts. It is imperative for all of us to work toward solutions that ensure these communities have access to clean water as a basic human right. After all, these are the folks bolstering California’s economy and putting food on tables throughout the state and country. As climate change continues to drive extreme weather patterns, it is critical for us to continue work with organizations like the Community Water Center to safeguard a just water future for all. So while you enjoy your fresh fruits and veggies during your next meal, consider the hands that feed you and think about how you will “seize the day” as we begin 2016.

Carpe Diem!

Lauren Barnum
January 8, 2016

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