John Chacon / California Department of Water Resources

A provision in the newest California budget could give the state the power to force mergers between small water providers and larger companies. A number of small central valley water utilities are facing dried up wells and dirty water due to the drought.

Many of the smallest water providers in the valley have just one well and lack the resources or customer base to continue to provide clean water.

Laurel Firestone with the Community Water Center says merging with bigger companies gives those communities a larger more durable water supply, especially during the drought.

John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

California’s drought isn't just causing wells to go dry, it's also contributing to a long running water pollution problem.

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at over 100 private domestic drinking water wells in the San Joaquin Valley. It found that around 1 in 4 had uranium levels above those considered safe by the EPA. Most of the wells were on the east side of the valley, which is home to sediment from the Sierra Nevada which naturally contains uranium.

Fountains For Schools With Limited Water Access

Jan 8, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

More than 100 schools in California's Central Valley will receive water purification stations under a new program designed to give kids fresh water instead of sugary drinks with lunch. Capital Public Radio's Bob Moffitt reports.

The California Endowment created the pilot project called "Agua For All" and has joined with three regional groups in the state to identify schools that need water fountains or water filtration systems. 

Sarah Buck with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation says 120 schools will receive new fountains.

Report: California's Water System Needs Better Funding

Mar 12, 2014
CA Dept of Water Resources

A new report says California would need an additional two to three billion dollars every year to fill gaps where funding is needed for managing the state’s water. From Sacramento, Amy Quinton has more on the latest Public Policy Institute of California report.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Despite the rains of the past weekend, California’s drought is still a huge problem for communities up and down the state. While many towns in the Valley are bracing for the economic impact of the drought, and the resulting loss of farm jobs, the community of Orange Cove also has to contend with concerns about its water supply.

Mayor Gabriel Jimenez says that while the city has five municipal wells to draw water from the aquifer, they can't be used due to nitrate pollution.

"Now our wells are shutdown, we're 100 percent dependent of surface water," says Jimenez. 

California Budget Proposal Would Move Clean Drinking Water Program

Jan 9, 2014
Valley Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal would make a significant change to the state’s Safe Drinking Water Program.  Last year, the Department of Public Health came under fire for failing to spend almost a half billion dollars to provide drinking water to communities that need it.

Under Brown’s budget proposal, the State Water Resources Control Board would run the program in the future. Jennifer Clary, with Clean Water Action, says she’s glad the program will be taken from the Department of Public Health.

Valley Public Radio

The California Department of Public Health released its plan today on how it intends to use some $455 million in unspent federal funds that are supposed to go to pay to clean drinking water programs.

The agency was the subject of a highly critical report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in April over the failure to spend the federal funds.

The Department of Public Health plans to distribute $84 million from that fund to local water agencies by the end of the week, and nearly $200 million in the next fiscal year.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency says California is violating the Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA says the state’s Department of Public Health has failed to spend nearly a $500 million in federal money to provide safe drinking water. It’s estimated the state will have to spend $40 billion over the next two decades to fix the problem.  As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, some lawmakers are outraged by what they see as a bureaucratic nightmare within the Department.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

More than 600 communities in California rely on contaminated groundwater. Nowhere is the problem more acute than in the Tulare Lake Basin and the Salinas Valley.  It’s estimated that a quarter of a million people there rely on groundwater contaminated with nitrates, including some of the poorest people in the state. In the first of two stories, Amy Quinton reports on how one community struggles to deal with the problem. 

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

For the past 35 years, Sandra Garcia has picked grapes, plums and peppers on San Joaquin Valley farms. But when she returns to her home in the small, Tulare County community of Poplar, she’s reminded of agriculture’s impact on her drinking water.

She can’t drink it because it contains unhealthy levels of nitrates. And she can’t cook with it, because boiling water can concentrate the nitrate level. It’s a serious health issue for infants and pregnant women.

California in Violation Of Safe Drinking Water Act

Apr 22, 2013
Valley Public Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says California is in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The federal government has provided the state one-point-five billion dollars to make loans and grants to water systems across the state. But since October 2012, about a half billion dollars remains unspent.

EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld says in many cases the money has been committed, but the projects are not “shovel-ready”. As a result, other communities’ drinking water needs remain unmet.

CA Water Resources Control Board

The State Water Resources Control Board is recommending that California fund efforts to mitigate nitrate pollution through a statewide fee on fertilizer.

In a report to the Legislature, the board said that groundwater nitrate pollution in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley is likely to get worse in the future, and a dedicated funding stream is needed to address the problem.

Agricultural fertilizer and confined animal facilities are considered some of the top sources of nitrate pollution.

Valley Public Radio

Several lawmakers introduced nine bills Wednesday they say are designed to help the more than 21 million Californians who rely on contaminated groundwater for drinking. 

Environmental groups and several Democratic legislators stood on the Capitol steps to call for an end to contaminated water.

They say so many poor communities lack access to safe drinking water that California will have to invest about $40 billion over the next two decades to solve the problem.

Democratic Assemblymember Henry T. Perea represents Fresno and parts of the Central Valley.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

More than half of California's population relies on a contaminated drinking water supply – though most communities blend or treat their water to make it safe.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento on that finding in a new state report out this week.

The report by the State Water Resources Control Board was ordered by the state Legislature.  It says from 2002 to 2010, 680 out of 3,000 community water systems in the state relied on one or more contaminated groundwater wells.  Those contaminated wells served 21 million people.

Many rural Tulare County residents can't drink water from their wells due to nitrate pollution. But now a group of Visalia Rotarians are working to change that, by donating $15,000 worth of reverse-osmosis filters to residents in the small community of Monson.

Residents in the Fresno County town of Easton get their water from backyard wells. But many of those wells recently tested above the official limit for certain toxins. It's just the latest case of rural San Joaquin Valley residents struggling to find safe water to drink. Dan Morain of the Sacramento Bee reports.