A new report by the California State Auditor revealed that almost 1 million Californians may experience long-term health problems as a result of drinking contaminated water, including potential liver and kidney damage as well as an elevated risk of cancer.
The State Water Resources Control Board was condemned by the audit for lacking the urgency to solve the state’s deteriorating water systems. The research claims that as of December 2021, there were over 370 failed water systems that served around 920,000 people with water.
Most of the Central Valley’s broken water systems are located in underprivileged areas, with San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties bearing the brunt of the damage to residents.
The audit read in part:
“Nearly 240 of these water systems have been failing for at least three years, and more than 150 have been failing for five years. Further, for 2022, the State Water Board’s data show that an additional 432 water systems serving more than 1 million people are at risk of failing.”
According to the audit, the State Water Board did not give priority to processing funding requests from water systems for improving water quality. It now takes 33 months on average for water systems to finish their funding applications when, in the last five years, it took an average of 17 months.
The auditor’s office provided the State Water Board with several recommendations, including streamlining its application procedure by ceasing to request “unnecessary application documents and financial information,” creating a procedure to expedite urgent water projects, and creating metrics for benchmarks in the crucial stages of the application and funding process.
Acting State Auditor Michael Tilden said that since the state legislature approved $650 million in 2021 especially to address the contamination, there shouldn’t be any failing water systems.
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