Gotta love finding third world water contamination problems in the world's seventh largest economy: the state of California.
While on a worldwide investigation of dirty drinking water -- with stops in Bangladesh, Uruguay and Namibia -- a United Nations investigator visited the Tulare County community of Seville in March. After seeing conditions, the investigator urged state and federal authorities to consider healthy drinking water a human right and clean up the mess.
In a state with the world's seventh-largest economy, it wouldn't take a lot of money to clean up the Valley's small-town water problems -- $150 million total for projects on record. San Francisco last year committed the same amount of money to help homeowners and businesses finance solar panels and water efficiency.
But small-town residents face an uphill fight for the healthy drinking water that most Californians take for granted. Townfolk feel they have nowhere to turn. State public health authorities make a habit of inviting them to apply for cleanup funding, then turning them down for technicalities.
Residents, activists, engineers and local officials say the Valley's small drinking water systems are barely a blip on the state's radar.
And it's the people who can least afford to do anything about it who are hurting the most.
They are not alone in shouldering an extra cost for water. Last year, 95% of the people in a survey of small water systems in Tulare County said they drink bottled water or purified water sold from a machine. The Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based nonprofit group, did the survey as a part of a report on the human cost of nitrates in the drinking water.
The survey results showed some people spend more than 10% of their income to buy water for their families, though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the 1990s said 1.5% would be a better guideline.