Study: many Californians rely on contaminated drinking water

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An estimated 370,000 Calif. citizens rely on drinking water with high levels of arsenic, nitrate, or hexavalent chromium. Many of those exposed belong to communities of color or use domestic wells.

An estimated 370,000 Californians rely on drinking water that may contain high levels of arsenic, nitrate or hexavalent chromium, and contaminated drinking water disproportionately impact communities of color in the state, finds a new analysis led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Because the study was limited to three common contaminants, results likely underestimate the actual number of Californians impacted by unsafe drinking water from other compounds for which data are not as widely available, the researchers say.

Since 2012, access to safe, clean and affordable drinking water has been recognized as a human right in the state of California. Community water systems are required by federal regulations to undergo regular testing for contaminants that are harmful to human health.

However, many California community water systems do not meet regulatory standards. In addition, many largely rural households receive their tap water from private domestic wells that remain largely unregulated.


The study, published in the current edition of the American Journal of Public Health, is the first to quantify the average concentrations of multiple chemical contaminants in both community water systems and domestic well areas statewide and is the first to systematically analyze demographic disparities in drinking water quality across the state.

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