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Rural california towns devise unique plan to solve water problems. - Rugged Industrial Computer Man by e55he swrzsnb

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Rural california towns devise unique plan to solve water problems. - Rugged Industrial Computer Man by
Article Posted: 04/11/2013
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Articles Written: 2033
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Rural california towns devise unique plan to solve water problems. - Rugged Industrial Computer Man

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Safe drinking water is a "necessity for healthy living andeconomic growth and opportunity for the community," DeniseKadara, president of the Allensworth Progressive Association, saidat a recent meeting of the Strategic Growth Council, acabinet-level committee that coordinates activities related toissues such as water quality and public health among five stateagencies. "Rural communities like Allensworth face hugebarriers to clean drinking water and we need innovative solutionsto overcome these barriers." Consolidation of water districts – there are more than 8,000public systems in California – has become increasinglyappealing to rural communities. "It"s become harder andharder for a very small water system to provide safe water and tokeep the rates affordable," said Laurel Firestone, theco-executive director of the Community Water Center in Visalia."There"s an overall trend of water systems looking forcollaborative solutions to help cut costs." The Allensworth-Alpaugh proposal is unique because it involves aconsolidation between remote rural community water districts and anirrigation water district. The arrangement could serve as a modelfor other rural communities, water policy experts say.

"A lot of dispersed communities face similar challenges, andwhat is learned here could be pretty influential in the ruralWest," said Tony Rossmann, an attorney who has handled someof the state"s most significant water cases. The proposal had the support of the Tulare County Board ofSupervisors, which submitted the application to the state StrategicGrowth Council. "We know that in Tulare County, we have cleanwater issues in our unincorporated communities," said AllenIshida, a county supervisor. "We are not going to be able tosolve these issues without consolidation because it"s tooexpensive." Ishida said the funding for the feasibility study is a step toward"finally, after all these years, getting acceptable andpotable clean water" to unincorporated communities "sothat residents can enjoy the health benefits and lessen thefinancial burden of having to buy bottled water." According to surveys conducted by advocacy organizations likeCalifornia Rural Legal Assistance, residents of low-income,unincorporated communities spend up to 10 percent of their incomeon water. California law states that residents have a "right to pureand safe drinking water," but while the state Department ofPublic Health is charged with monitoring public water systems,there are few enforcement mechanisms, said Camille Pannu of theCenter on Race, Poverty & the Environment, who helped draft theAllensworth-Alpaugh proposal.

"The gap between rights on the books and rights on the groundis particularly stark in the (Central) Valley," Pannu wrotein a recent issue of the California Law Review. The Allensworth-Alpaugh proposal also included an additional$450,000 funds to study the extension of sewer service from thecity of Tulare to the unincorporated community of Matheny Tract. As California Watch has previously reported , Matheny Tract, on the outskirts of Tulare, is located just a fewmiles – and downwind – from the municipal wastewatertreatment plant, but residents currently can"t connect to it.Residents rely instead on aging septic tanks. A memorandum of understanding is already in place between the cityand county to explore a wastewater connection to Matheny Tract, butfeasibility studies are a crucial step toward infrastructureimprovements for low-income unincorporated communities, advocatessaid. A common obstacle to construction is "not getting through theplanning phase," often because there's a lack of funding,said Phoebe Seaton of California Rural Legal Assistance.

Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel added that the studiesfor the Allensworth-Alpaugh and Matheny Tract projects "can beused to leverage additional funds for construction." He saidthat state and federal funding sources typically requirefeasibility studies and preliminary engineering work to becompleted before projects will be considered for future funding. A separate $383,853 proposal to draft a planning document forunincorporated and disadvantaged communities in Tulare County alongthe Highway 99 corridor was also approved by the Strategic GrowthCouncil. Numerous Central Valley communities face similar conditions withwater quality, access and delivery. A report by the environmental research organization Pacific Institute foundthat between 2005 and 2008, about 1.3 million San Joaquin Valleyresidents drank water with unhealthy levels of nitrates, which canlead to severe illness and even death among infants.

According to Oakland think tank PolicyLink, an estimated 1.8million Californians live in low-income, unincorporated communitieslike Allensworth and Alpaugh, and many lack potable drinking wateror other basic infrastructure. In the Tulare Lake Basin area, thereare at least 370 of these communities.

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