Coalition for achieving the human right to water for all in California: Lessons learned and vision for the future
While the Water Justice movement faces an increase in consolidation of corporate power over water management and policy, the passage of the Human Right to Water bill (AB685), which states that every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes, has opened many opportunities for improving water justice in California. The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW) has begun to effectively address the needs of low-income communities of color affected by the lack of access to clean, safe, affordable water by spearheading community-driven water solutions. As a result, EJCW has become a leading figure for achieving the human right to water for all in California. As an example of this work, through our coalition partners and on-the-ground community outreach and environmental justice education, we identified and engaged disadvantaged communities lacking access to safe drinking water in rural North Monterey County. These communities have some of the highest drinking water contamination rates in the state of California.
Our efforts to implement the Human Right to Water bill throughout California and specifically in North Monterey County has informed our work through the following lessons: 1) the challenges in identifying low-income or disadvantaged communities in both rural and urban setting that are affected by the lack drinking water and wastewater systems, 2) the unique localized political and social dynamics that affect the development of infrastructure and services in multiple settings (mixed income, rural, isolated, unincorporated, ect.) and 3) the demographics of affected communities (communities of color, low income, renters vs. owners, etc.). Overall our findings highlight the importance of on the ground, grassroots outreach and educational approaches as well as building true community engagement and relationships at the local level. EJCW's North Monterey County focus is current building a community leadership structure to address these environmental injustices. Through our work, in addition to helping communities advance engineering solutions, i.e., pipes in the ground, EJCW will build the human infrastructure needed to achieve long-term solutions in water governance. EJCW's long-term community capacity work will advance communities' interests in developing technical, managerial, and financial skills and be the first step in a replicable organizing model to achieve the human right to water for all.