Water supply for underserved, marginalized communities of the Salinas Valley

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Water supply for disadvantaged communities of the Salinas Valley

On September 25th, 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 685, making California the first state within the U.S. to recognize the human right to water.[1] AB 685 - California's Human Right to Water Bill - mandates safe drinking water access and affordability to all Californians as part of California's state policy. Agencies charged with implementation of water policies must make the basic human right of access to affordable, potable water part of their decision making process.

In the Salinas Valley, disadvantaged communities face several challenges with respect to water quality. The degradation of ground water with pollutants such as Nitrates from agricultural fertilizers is one challenge. Seawater intrusion into fresh water aquifers due to over-pumping for both agricultural and urban use is another. These water quality concerns coupled with the fact that groundwater is the primary water source for the Salinas Valley, make the goals of AB 685 a formidable challenge.

Furthermore, disadvantaged communities living in unincorporated parts of the Salinas Valley are often excluded from the decision making process that effects water infrastructure and availability in their communities through zoning laws. For non-English speaking residents, language becomes a barrier to accessing information and participating.

To implement AB 685, agencies such as CDPH and DWR will have to re-evaluate priorities and assess the needs and challenges within these under-served, marginalized communities of people of color.

Populations Susceptible to Drinking Water Contamination in the Salinas Valley

Households in the Salinas Valley are unusually dependent on groundwater compared to most of California. Households that rely on groundwater for household use and are part of low income communities with small water systems are most susceptible to nitrate contamination of their drinking water. There are over 100 small water systems that are documented and monitored and have had at least one incident of nitrate contamination over the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrate. Approximately 2.6% of the Salinas Valley population use unregulated and unmonitored wells and are susceptible to contaminated drinking water. [2]

link to ca and us median income: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06000.html HUD definition of income levels http://www.hcd.ca.gov/hpd/hrc/rep/state/inc2k12.pdf

Salinas Valley Concentration of Poverty in Agricultural Communities
Community Median Income ($/year) Percent of Median Income Percent Latino/Black/API/Native American
Central Coast 58,880 - 66,500 1.02 47.8
Chualar 41,818 72 97.6
Gonzales 50,000 86 91
Greenfield 50,349 87 93.4

Integrated Regional Water Management Program

Greater Monterey County IRWM planning regions

Salinas Valley IRWM



  1. [http:www.law.berkeley.edu/files/Water_Report_2013_Interactive_FINAL.pdf AB 685].
  2. Ground Water Nitrates


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