California Institute for Water Resources
California Institute for Water Resources
California Institute for Water Resources
University of California
California Institute for Water Resources

Assessing health impacts of impaired water quality in California

Summary:

Access to safe drinking water for communities across California is a growing challenge. In addition, little is known about the scope of waterborne disease across the state. This project aims to close this gap by analyzing trends in violations of drinking water quality standards in California and determining the health impacts of impaired drinking water. Emphasis will be placed on identifying the types of communities bearing disproportionate burdens of violations and health consequences to better target assistance.

Investigator:

Maura Allaire
Assistant Professor in Urban Planning & Public Policy, School of Social Ecology
UC Irvine

Project description:

Ensuring safe drinking water for communities across California represents an emerging challenge. Growing awareness of inadequate access, especially for disadvantaged communities, has elevated water quality issues to the state-level. Currently, over one million Californians are estimated to lack access to safe water. Yet, the full scope of this challenge is unknown. At present, the state lacks understanding of the precise population without access and the associated health impacts.

Substantial investment is needed to correct this situation – approximately $30-160 million annually. While state assistance is available to struggling communities, targeting assistance can be challenging due to limited information on water-related disease burden.

This study aims to close this gap by: 1) analyzing trends in violations of drinking water quality standards in California and 2) determining the health impacts of impaired drinking water. Emphasis will be placed on identifying the types of communities bearing disproportionate burdens of violations and health consequences.

Such information can greatly inform cost-effective solutions for communities struggling with persistent water quality concerns. By combining several datasets not previously applied to California water issues, this research will develop clearer metrics for prioritizing water systems for state-level assistance. At present, communities must undertake a lengthy administrative process before being placed on an assistance priority list. Furthermore, health consequences are not considered in a systematic way for prioritization of assistance due to data limitations.

This project will greatly advance understanding of vulnerable systems and waterborne disease in California, particularly as the state seeks to promote cost-effective solutions for communities struggling with persistent water quality concerns.

Water fountain. Photo by Sulphur.
Water fountain. Photo by Sulphur.

Violations per water system between 2004-15. Image via NYT.
Violations per water system between 2004-15. Image via NYT.

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