From disputes over who should have access to diminishing water supplies, to groundwater contamination, California’s drought has dominated the news lately. But according to Sara Aminzadeh of the California Coastkeeper Alliance, a network of local groups working to protect their watersheds, California’s water woes are long-standing.

Water pipes

Aminzadeh: “The drought is not necessarily causing these issues. It’s just making the issues more intense.”

For example, with less surface water available, some communities are forced to rely on groundwater, which can be contaminated.

Aminzadeh: “We’ve seen a lot of information come out – startling information – about arsenic and nitrates in our groundwater basins in the Central Valley. That really underscores the need to use our existing clean water supplies in a much more careful, thoughtful way.”

The drought also highlights the need to share water equitably.

Aminzadeh: “Some of the wealthier areas are just using much, much more water. And some of the other communities are simply running out of water.”

In 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation saying that access to safe, clean, and affordable water is a basic human right. It’s also a growing challenge as climate change creates even hotter, drier conditions.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
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A regular contributor to Yale Climate Connections since 2012, David Appell, Ph.D., is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon, specializing in the physical sciences, technology, and the environment. His...