Dozens of Water Systems Consolidate in California’s Farming Heartland

News Deeply –

In California’s San Joaquin Valley, one of the most productive farming regions in the nation, an estimated 150,000 people are stuck living with contaminated drinking water. When they open a tap to fill a cooking pot or take a shower, the water that gushes out is contaminated with nitrates, hexavalent chromium, arsenic and other nasties from polluted wells.

The good news: Help is available to many of these small community water systems, provided they can merge with a neighboring utility that has clean water.

Estimating how many such mergers are under way is difficult, because they are at different stages and some may not have reached the attention of state regulators yet. A University of California, Los Angeles study released last year estimated 32 mergers are in progress. Camille Pannu, director of the Water Justice Center at the University of California, Davis, said there are probably more than 50 mergers in the works in the San Joaquin Valley alone.

Whatever the number, the process can be expensive and laborious, despite state laws meant to ease the way.

“It’s definitely a multiyear – often many-year – process,” said Nell Green Nylen, a senior research fellow at the Wheeler Water Institute at U.C. Davis. “A big part of it is funding. And there can be a number of different agencies at different levels that need to be involved.”

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