NewsLocal News


Report revealing hundreds of failing water districts in California

City of Ventura advising residents to boil water before using due to Thomas fire
Posted at 4:37 AM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 07:37:02-04

A state audit found that nearly one million Californians have contaminated drinking water.

The report found that 920,000 people could face health issues from unsafe drinking water.

The California State Auditor found there are 370 failing water systems in California that are putting almost a million residents at risk.

“Some of these contaminants are things like arsenic, uranium, (and) nitrates from agricultural runoff,” said Audit Principal John Lewis.

The audit criticizes the State Water Resources Control Board for a lack of urgency in getting funding to these smaller systems, which often rely on well water.

“What was most surprising was how much longer it’s taking to get these applications out-- the fact that the state water board wasn’t really measuring that time, that they didn’t seem to have that sense of urgency to get these applications completed and the funding out in a timely manner.”

Even with $650 million in additional funding last year, it still takes nearly twice as long to get money to fix the failing systems as it did 5 years ago – nearly 33 months from the time a water district applies.

“650 million, that’s a substantial investment in safe drinking water. However, our report demonstrates that the state water board’s process for providing funding, it’s just taking too long and has not made sufficient effort to address these problems,” said Senior Auditor Ralph Flynn.

Most of these districts are in the Central Valley and inland Southern California, but at least 10 are on the Central Coast.

They include an apartment complex along South Higuera Street. The county says that the well has high nitrates and that residents are given bottled water.

There is also Ken Mar Gardens along Halcyon Road in Arroyo Grande where the well has high levels of selenium and water has to be delivered. The system is looking at the possibility of connecting to the Oceano Community Services District.

Other problem spots include Rim Rock Water Company off Thompson Road in Nipomo, two small districts near Paso Robles, and the community of Heritage Ranch.

“They’re really small districts often run by volunteers so they may not even have their own professional staff. It might be a resident that’s actually operating the system,” said Joe Karkosi, deputy director of the Division of Financial Assistance with the State Water Resources Control Board.

The state water resources board says that it is working to simplify the application process to get much-needed funding to impacted areas as soon as possible.

“We definitely recognize a need to adjust our process,” said Karkosi. “We’ve already made in the last year 40 process improvements-- a lot of that is streamlining and recognizing the need to have a different approach for the smaller water systems versus the larger water systems.”

The audit recommends establishing goals for how long the application process should take.