The Problem Is Clear: The Water Is Filthy

California Rural Legal Assistance and other groups are helping predominantly Latino unincorporated communities in the Central Valley seek clean water.

News Story (California, RURAL)

Patricia Leigh Brown
New York Times (NYT)
November 13, 2012
Link to story

Tags: Children & Juvenile, Farm and Migrant Workers, Health Care, Language Access

Organizations mentioned/involved: California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. (CRLA)


Seville, with a population of about 300, is one of dozens of predominantly Latino unincorporated communities in the Central Valley plagued for decades by contaminated drinking water. It is the grim result of more than half a century in which chemical fertilizers, animal wastes, pesticides and other substances have infiltrated aquifers, seeping into the groundwater and eventually into the tap. An estimated 20 percent of small public water systems in Tulare County are unable to meet safe nitrate levels, according to a United Nations representative.

In farmworker communities like Seville, a place of rusty rural mailboxes and backyard roosters where the average yearly income is $14,000, residents like Rebecca Quintana pay double for water: for the tap water they use to shower and wash clothes, and for the five-gallon bottles they must buy weekly for drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth.
Situated off the psychic map of California, lacking political clout and even mayors, places like Seville and Tooleville to the south have long been excluded from regional land use and investment decisions, said Phoebe S. Seaton, the director of a community initiative for California Rural Legal Assistance.
But there is a growing recognition by state and local officials that rural communities need regional solutions.