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Politics

Health Impacts Of Drought Already Felt In Central Valley

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A dry canal near Bakersfield, CA on February 6, 2014. (David McNew.Getty Images)

A dry canal near Bakersfield, CA on February 6, 2014. (David McNew.Getty Images)

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SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – An oversight hearing was held in Sacramento on Tuesday, looking at how the current drought will impact access to safe drinking water in disadvantaged communities around California.

The hearing, called by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas and the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, comes after the California Department of Public Health last month identified 17 rural communities with vulnerable drinking water systems due to drought conditions in the state.

Omar Carrillo with the Community Water Center said he has already received calls from residents in Orange Cove outside of Fresno.

“They’ve said that their wells have gone dry and their neighbors are helping each other by connecting hoses between the homes,” he said.

Dry wells have also been reported in the communities of Seville and Madera.

“2,100 community water systems are a hundred percent groundwater reliant in California,” Carrillo said. “420 schools are not connected to a community water system and rely on their own well for water supply.”

Alejo, who represents the 30th District, which consists of Salinas Valley, Monterey County, San Benito County, South Santa Clara County and the city of Watsonville, said he expects more communities to have problems getting safe drinking water.

“Communities around California – especially those already lacking adequate access to clean drinking water – are facing the very real threat of not having any drinking water at all,” he said. “To make matters worse, these same communities are also facing additional threats associated with drought such as reduced air quality, the spread of disease, agricultural hardships and economic instability.”

The California Department of Public Health said small drinking water systems are especially vulnerable during the drought, as they have fewer customers, which can mean fewer options in terms of resources like funding and infrastructure.

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