Member Profile: Community Water Center

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Referred By
Blue Planet Network | Status: approved
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CWC is a community-based, environmental justice organization based in the San Joaquin Valley, whose goal is to ensure that California’s most vulnerable communities have access to safe, clean and affordable drinking water. We believe that clean water is a human right, and safe, clean and affordable water can and must be a reality for all communities. The Center employs three primary strategies in order to accomplish our goals:

1) educate, organize and provide legal and technical assistance to low-income, communities of color facing local water challenges;

2) advocate for systemic change to address the root causes of unsafe drinking water; and

3) serve as a resource for information and expertise on community water challenges.

Date Founded 2006-09-16
Primary Focus Drinking Water - Community
Secondary Focus Capacity Building
History of Water Projects
Related work not on PWX.

The Community Water Center provides direct organizing, education and legal assistance to low-income, predominantly Latino communities in order to help them address immediate drinking water challenges. Here are some of the community-led water efforts that CWC has supported:

As a result of the efforts of the Committee for a Better Alpaugh, the community received $4 million in state and federal grants to upgrade their water system after finding high levels of arsenic in their wells.

The community group Vecinos Unidos not only forced the rescission of an unconstitutional ordinance discriminating against extended families – with literally 200 residents participating at local water board meetings and press conferences – but have pushed for language access policies that allow the mostly Spanish-speaking community to effectively participate in board meetings.

The community group Si Se Puede en Ducor forced their water board to clean up residential water that was black and smelled like sewage.

East Orosi:
The community group Vecinos Unidos forced the East Orosi Community Services District to hold public meetings for the first time in over a year and apply for half a million dollars in grants to reduce illegal nitrate levels and secure safe water.

Residents in Monson have come together to address the high levels of nitrates in their private wells.

Concerned residents took over the Plainview Mutual Water Company and helped secure $2.3 million for a new well and distribution system.

After almost 6 months of negotiations, Seville residents successfully convinced the County of Tulare to temporarily take over their water system and apply for over $1 million in grants to upgrade the distribution system and secure a new safe source.

After nearly a decade of receiving nitrate-contaminated water three months out of the year, Tonyville families created the grassroots group, La Voz de Tonyville, and convinced the state to issue a compliance order requiring the water provider to deliver potable water year-round.

The community-based, Tooleville Mutual Nonprofit Water Association secured emergency funding to fix a broken well during the sweltering summer heat and secured funding to develop a permanent safe source.

West Goshen:
Residents resurrected the West Goshen Mutual Water Company, secured funding to fix a broken well, and brought the system back from near-bankruptcy.

Since 2006, CWC has built community power to develop community-driven water solutions and address the root causes of unsafe drinking water. Over the past five years, CWC has trained over 500 residents from at least 33 communities in the San Joaquin Valley to address specific drinking water challenges locally and to advocate for clean and affordable drinking water for the San Joaquin Valley region. CWC coordinates monthly meetings of the AGUA coalition, which includes representatives from 17 local communities and youth, as well as a number of partner nonprofits, focused on securing safe and affordable drinking water. Our public education efforts have reached tens of thousands of people through hundreds of media stories, various workshops, tours, presentations, meetings, and other types of public education and outreach events.

During the past several years, CWC has also developed and disseminated comprehensive information on the drinking water contamination problem in the San Joaquin Valley, and continues to serve as a resource for communities and policymakers alike, who seek information on the problem as well as the potential solutions. In January 2009, CWC published the Guide to Community Drinking Water Advocacy, available for free at our website in both English and Spanish. The Guide is a comprehensive community education and training tool that contains information on topics including water quality, water supply, applicable water laws and regulations. It also contains stories of communities that have organized to address various types of drinking water challenges, as well as handouts, fact sheets, templates, and other tools community residents can use to work in their own communities. Since its publication, over 250 copies of the Guide have been distributed, serving as an invaluable tool to organize, educate and train impacted residents, local water boards, the media, and even policy-makers about the severity and extent of the drinking water contamination crisis in the San Joaquin Valley, and on potential solutions to the problem. CWC has also recently published a white paper on the health impacts of nitrate-contaminated groundwater titled Water & Health in the Valley: Nitrate Contamination of Drinking Water and the Health of San Joaquin Valley Residents, as well as co-authored a report on the Human Costs of Nitrate Contamination with the Pacific Institute, Clean Water Fund and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

Organization Background

Community Water Center works to ensure that disadvantaged communities in California’s San Joaquin Valley have access to safe and affordable water. CWC was originally started in 2004 as the Rural Poverty Water Project at the Delano office of the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment (CRPE). Under the auspices of CRPE, this team successfully helped many individual communities in the southern San Joaquin Valley obtain safe, clean, and affordable water. Over time, it became clear that dozens, possibly hundreds, of communities in the region face similar drinking water issues. In September 2006, the Rural Poverty Water Project spun off from CRPE to form the Community Water Center, and established its office in Visalia, CA. As an independent entity, CWC is able to focus entirely on fostering strategic grassroots capacity to address water challenges in small, rural, low-income communities and communities of color. The Center’s target population includes rural, low-income communities and communities of color in the SJV. This includes unincorporated communities located in all eight counties of the SJV, with a greater focus in the southern valley, including Tulare, Kern, Kings and Fresno counties. The Center reaches its constituency by organizing and working directly in impacted communities through local workshops, trainings, and at meetings of the regional coalition, AGUA and Youth for AGUA, and through Spanish language media outlets.

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Last Updated: 12 Jul, 2019 (about 5 years ago)

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