Water is an essential we cannot live without.

And yet, many Californians lack access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water.  People of color–especially immigrant farmworkers–are affected disproportionately, as documented a 2019 New York Times article.  Nearly 1 million Californians are advised not to drink tap water because local water authorities are out of compliance with state and federal standards.

SOURCE: Developed by the authors using data from the State Water Board’s Human Right to Water (HR2W) portal.
NOTES: The map shows the 254 community water systems (serving about 900,000 people, or 2% of the population) that HR2W reported as out of compliance in August 2020. Of the more than 400 schools with their own water systems, more than 50 were also out of compliance, as were some systems on tribal lands. Nearly 40% of community water systems had multiple violations; 21% were in violation for arsenic, and 15% for 1,2,3-TCP contamination. (Notes and image come from the Public Policy Institute of California, 2021, article)

In a state where drought is an annual occurrence, water is a precious gift. Our stewardship of this gift matters. As ELCA World Hunger states, clean water is one of the most powerful ways to make change in the world.

As Lutherans, we care for our neighbor by looking out for their needs and well-being. Water is a central part of Lutheran worship in the sacrament of baptism; it is how we way welcome new people into our communities. What if the water we used for baptism was dirty? Or had traces of lead or pesticides in it?  What if we had to go to the gas station in town every few days to buy bottled water for ourselves and our families?  We believe everyone should have access to safe water, and at an affordable cost.

In 2019, the legislature passed a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund that provides more than $1.4 billion over the next decade to pay for safe drinking water projects, including emergency water supplies, consolidation of unsustainable small water systems and operation and maintenance cost systems in low-income communities in every part of our state.

Implementation of this fund will continue to require the attention of lawmakers, public officials, advocates, and communities from around the state.

Latest push for clean water:

In the 2023 legislative session, AB 249 (Holden) was introduced. This bill would set standards for school drinking water lead levels and provide additional funding for testing and infrastructure improvements to meet those standards. Unfortunately, Governor Newsom vetoed this bill in October 2023. LOPP-CA is working with bill sponsors to figure out how to advance these important efforts in 2024.

Where does your water come from?

Check out this interactive tool.