Valley residents rally for safe and affordable drinking water

Valley residents are urging California decision makers to establish a safe and affordable drinking fund.

On Friday morning, at a school in Fresno, the Leadership Council for Justice & Accountability and Community Water Center hosted a rally.

Veronica Garibay, who is the co-executive director of the Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability, said they want to see action taken now so it can be added into next year's budget.

"It's shame we are here asking for safe drinking water in California," she said.

Garibay explained more than a million Californians wake up each morning with toxic taps.

Their water is tainted with harmful contaminants including arsenic and nitrates.

RELATED: California water tax: Mixed reactions in Valley over proposal

Ramon Prado, who lives in Merced, does not currently have access to safe and affordable drinking water.

He explained his well has high levels of contaminants.

"We live in a state that has one of the biggest economies in the world. We live in one of the most developed countries in the world, yet we have an issue of our fellow citizens not being able to drink out of their tap water," Prado said.

Garibay mentioned low-income communities have been hit the hardest, including some right here in the Valley.

Genoveva Islas, who is a Fresno Unified School District Trustee for District 4, attended Friday's gathering.

"We cannot expect our students to reach their fullest potential if we do not create optimal conditions for learning. Children growing up in communities without safe drinking water have two options," Islas said.

She said those two options are to stay thirsty or consume sugary drinks.

It's not just homes with unsafe drinking water, more than 800 schools in California have lead-contaminated water.

There are a few options on the table to get the $140 million of funding for clean water, including a drinking water tax and using some of the state's surplus budget.

Advocates say they support any option that gets action.

"We are asking our decision makers go into the room and make a decision over the next few days they make sure that it is a permanent ongoing source of funding, sufficient money. It addresses the scale and scope of the issue and that polluters pay their fair share," Garibay explained.

While funding for safe drinking water did not make it through last year, supporters believe a decision will be made this year.

"There is momentum and that makes this a reality that we can do it this year," Garibay said.

Community Water Center will be at the Capitol starting next week to rally for safe and affordable drinking water.
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