Member-supported news for Southern California
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support for KPCC comes from:

Safe Drinking Water Act's 40th year offers new opportunities for helping Coachella Valley

Forty years ago, we didn't have a national standard for safe drinking water. A federal law changed that. But there's still plenty of work to do to protect drinking water around Southern California against newly discovered pollutants.
Photo by Ulisse Albiati via Flickr Creative Commons
Forty years ago, we didn't have a national standard for safe drinking water. A federal law changed that. But there's still plenty of work to do to protect drinking water around Southern California against newly discovered pollutants.

In 1974, lawmakers decided tap water in the United States should be safe to drink. Until then, we didn’t have a national standard for drinking water. Those reports your local provider gives you about water quality? They didn’t exist.

For 40 years, under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the federal government has been providing money to municipal systems to keep water free from a growing array of pollutants. That work is incomplete in small towns that rely on groundwater, particularly in the central valley and in Southern California’s High Desert.

In the Coachella Valley, says the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mike Montgomery, “Arsenic’s a naturally occurring compound,” and an inconvenient one. As a result, small communities are “trying to find aquifers that have lower amounts of arsenic,” Montgomery says. “It’s often difficult in regions that have minerology that just has higher levels of arsenic.”

Coachella systems are working on filtering arsenic out, but Montgomery says clean, reliable water requires ongoing investment.