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Table of Contents
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Water as a resource is one of the most vital resources to the city of California; it
is used in industry, agriculture, scenic beauty, environmental preservation, and
recreation. Water quality generally is the biological, physical, radiological, and chemical
characteristics of water; it is also the measure of water condition relative to the
requirements of human needs or purposes. This paper discusses the water quality of
California including all the issues that border water quality in this region.
There are major stakeholders that take part in California water quality. The water
community of California is divided into three basic groups including urban, agriculture,
and environmental. Irrigation districts and farmers are classified under agriculture, we
have city officials and municipal water supplies under urban while conservation groups
are under environmental. Despite having disagreements over the use of water and
restoring the natural ecosystem, these stakeholder groups work to ensure that water
solutions are found that can work for the whole city. The policymakers are often faced
with the challenge of compromising in such situations, the state is also faced with
challenges such as that of ensuring adequate water supply to the whole city population,
reducing the level of nonpoint pollution such as polluted runoff coming from farm fields
and roads, and purifying drinking water through removal of pollutants.
The people of California are also highly affected by the water quality of the area;
this is due to the fact that they are the consumers of the water. The most important
concern being looked into by the Water Resources Control Board of the state is
sustaining the delivery of safe water supplies to consumers; this is faced by the
challenge of drought since water quality is accompanied by water quantity.
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According to a comprehensive United States geological survey study, almost a
fifth of the underground water that is utilized for drinking in California by the public was
found to contain high levels of toxic contaminants. This study which involved
examination of up to 11000 public wells revealed the presence of high levels of
uranium, arsenic, and other trace elements that may be worrisome to the health of the
people. These findings clearly show concerns about the water used in California since
water systems used by the public are required to have low contaminant levels that are
acceptable before the water is used by the consumers. The federal and state
Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment program, created by California in the
early 2000s found out that many people in California are highly dependent on public
water whose raw supplies have been found to contain toxic levels of naturally occurring
trace elements. In addition, farm irrigation which drains into underground water is also a
contributing factor towards the unsafely high level of uranium that has been detected in
a fraction of public supplies in San Joaquin Valley, an area that is known to be farm rich.
In Los Angeles, contaminants that are common at high levels include nitrates
whose main source is fertilizer, solvents like the ones used in dry-cleaning, and the
naturally occurring traces of uranium, manganese, and arsenic. In Central Valley,
several rural schools located in Tulare County prevent pupils from taking water from
drinking fountains due to the presence of nitrates, arsenic, and uranium in the water.
Also, having been surrounded by rich farmland, Waukena Joint Union Elementary
School was forced to purchase drinking water before being awarded a grant; this water
was then stored and distributed to all classrooms to ensure the pupils do not take
contaminated water. Findings from the study showed that 8.9 percent of people in
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California drink water from highly contaminated public water supplies. In addition,
groundwater that is clouded by high nitrate levels that originate from fertilizer affects
only 5.6 percent of people and these people are those who live in areas that were once
Water quality challenges for California are both diverse and multiple, these
challenges vary and result from both natural processes and human actions. The State
has many water quality challenges that need to be managed accordingly to ensure safe
and adequate supply of water for the environment, homes, and businesses. Some
contaminants may be from activities of the past, for instance, mercury may be an effect
of mining, and also, there are many ongoing sources of pollution.
California water quality is guided by both the state and the federal water quality
laws. The federal water pollution control act that was enacted first in 1948 makes it
unlawful for anyone to discharge pollutants from point sources to waters without having
a permit; the quality standards for water are therefore to be implemented as per permit
conditions. This act mainly aims at restoration and maintenance of the physical,
biological, and chemical integrity of water, elimination of the discharge of water
pollutants into water, and prohibition of the discharge of highly toxic pollutants in large
amounts. The health of people is prone to be highly affected once they consume
contaminated water, nonpoint sources produce effluent that includes chemical
compounds and toxic contaminants such as heavy metals like zinc, cadmium, mercury,
and lead, and organic pollutants. Health effects associated with such toxic substances
are many and these laws that concern water safety are beneficial in ensuring good
health of Californians.
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The State Water Resources Control Board which was created in 1967 by the
California State Legislature is enabled to ensure the provision of comprehensive safety
of the waters of California. Also, the nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards have
equipped a mission to ensure development and enforcement of objectives that boost
water quality and implementation plans that are highly protective of the consumers of
the state waters. These Regional Boards strive to achieve this mission through the
administration of Basin Plans that embody the quality standards of the state. The
Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act is an example of an act that was passed to
kick-start regulation in order to protect the environment and public health.
California has had many different water issues and water quality in California has
currently declined as a result of the drought that has been experienced in the region, it
is this drought that has caused extended heat and low flows to raise the temperatures of
water and reduce the level of oxygen in streams and rivers in the area, the vulnerable
species of fish are therefore threatened and this can result in algal blooms that are
harmful. Salinity levels are also increased by low flows. However, on the brighter side,
the drought has led to an interest in projects like the capture and reuse of treated
stormwater and wastewater, such projects are beneficial since they provide supply and
water quality benefits.
Small schools and rural water systems are also unable to acquire safe drinking water for
pupils and residents around. Nitrate and chemicals seem to be a constant challenge in
the pollution of underground water basins. In addition, water treatment to get rid of
these contaminants is quite costly especially for small systems that do not reap the
benefits of economies of scale. Wastewater management also proves to be a huge
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challenge in these small communities since it may be unaffordable to them;
administrative support and state funding can be of help although this requires a durable
The agricultural industry poses a risk to the future inhabitants of those areas who
may have to deal with contaminants from fertilizers in future. California dairy farmers
have come together to help each other monitor, manage, and protect water resources
so as to protect water quality. Since 2007, these dairy families have made efforts
towards improvement of the protection of water resources that are shared, and they
have also made investments in improvements in water quality in general. Their
decisions are based on accurate information which they obtain from testing irrigation
water, soil, plant tissue, and manure extensively, their nutrient management plan
enables them to control organic fertilizer application and thus ensure it is balanced, this
protects groundwater. These dairy farmers, therefore, play a big role in securing a future
of safe water for California.
Water is a highly essential resource for the people of many states including
California. The existence of several water contaminants is a big challenge to the people
of California; however, this challenge has been approached by several bodies and is
being handled for the safety of the people. The laws and regulations put in place are of
great significance if they are followed and implemented completely. In addition, every
person is equipped with the responsibility of ensuring that pollution of water sources is
prevented at all times, taking these measures into consideration will help to increase
water quality in the state of California.
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California, Water Management. Available at http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/BiCa/California-Water-Management-in.html
Californias Water Quality Challenges. Available at
Getting to the Roots of Californias Drinking Water Crisis. Available at
Safe Drinking Water Plan for California. Available at
http://waterboards.ca.gov/drinking_water/programs [Accessed on Nov, 2017]
Study finds contaminants in California public-water supplies. Available at
The California Drought Isnt Over, It Just Went Underground.Available at
Water Quality Standards Regulations: California. Available at http://www.epa.gov/wqstech/water-quality-standards-regulations-california
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Study finds contaminants in California public-water supplies
Nearly one-fifth of the raw groundwater used for public drinking water systems in California contains
excessive levels of potentially toxic contaminants, according to a decade-long U.S. Geological Survey
study that provides one of the first comprehensive looks at the health of Californias public water supply
One of the surprises in the study of 11,000 public supply wells statewide is the extent to which high
levels of arsenic, uranium and other naturally occurring but worrisome trace elements is present,
authors of the study said.
Public-water systems are required to bring many contaminants down to acceptable levels before
supplying customers. But the findings highlight potential concerns involving the more than 250,000
private wells where water quality is the responsibility of individual homeowners, state officials said.
Several million Californians rely on public water systems in which raw supplies bear potentially toxic
amounts of those trace elements, according to the first cumulative findings of the state and federal
Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment program, which California created in the early 2000s.
The survey also gives public policymakers the first sweeping look at the extent to which agricultural
irrigation, industrial pollutants and other uses of groundwater are adding to problems for underground
water reserves, now under heavy demand in Californias drought.
Uranium, for example, is a naturally occurring element one that can raise the risk of kidney ailments
and cancer if consumed long-term at high levels.
But farm irrigation draining into underground water aquifers has contributed to uranium showing up at
unsafe levels in 7 percent of public water supplies in the farm-rich San Joaquin Valley, the study found.
For Californias water managers, the challenge right now, of course, is the drought, said John
Borkovich, an official with the state Water Resources Control Board who helps oversee the groundwater
monitoring program. Being able to sustain delivery of a safe water supply is the No. 1 concern, of
course. But water quality is hand in hand with water quantity.
Water problems with clear culprits, such as oilfield injection into water aquifers, are comparatively
easier for regulators to handle, Borkovich said. For broader patterns of contamination with no single
offender, however, its up to the Legislature to decide whether or not there needs to be more attention
paid to the results weve found, he added.
The findings, published by the Environmental Science & Technology journal of the American Chemical
Society, draw on data from state monitoring of public supply wells and from well testing by the U.S.
Geological Survey and others. A public water supply is any source serving three or more people.
Statewide, about one-third of the states drinking water comes from groundwater in public supply wells.
In Los Angeles and surrounding areas, 19 percent of the population depends on public-water systems
whose raw groundwater shows high level of one or more contaminants, the study found. It was the
second-highest regional reading in the state, after the San Joaquin Valley.
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In the region that includes Los Angeles, the most common contaminants at high levels were solvents
such as those used in dry-cleaning, nitrates associated with fertilizer, and naturally occurring elements
like uranium, arsenic and manganese.
Water officials say public-water systems are experienced in handling water so as to minimize the
presence of dry-cleaning solvents in particular.
In Californias Central Valley, groundwater contaminated with uranium, arsenic or nitrates at several
rural schools in Tulare County has put drinking fountains off limits to pupils.
You could call it a headache, said Terri Lancaster, principal and superintendent at Waukena Joint
Union Elementary School, a district surrounded by rich farmland.
Before winning a state grant this year, the district, with 260 students, spent $10,000 or more annually to
buy drinking water, she said. Her staff has to order the bottled water, store and distribute it to each
classroom, and recycle the empty bottles.
The newly released study looked for contaminants present in raw water supplies above legally set
For contaminants without any legally set limits, the survey looked for levels at or above thresholds
identified as potential concerns for human health.
By law, public water systems with a well that consistently shows unhealthy levels of contaminants are
required to notify customers and fix the problem, said Kurt Souza of the State Water Resources Control
Boards division of drinking water.
Solutions often involve diluting contaminated water with a clean source, or drilling a new well.
The study managed to examine supplies for 99 percent of Californians using public water systems, said
Kenneth Belitz, lead author on the report and now the head of the groundwater portion of U.S.
Geological Surveys National Water Quality Assessment Program.
A total of 8.9 percent of Californians drink from public water systems where groundwater in its raw form
bears excessive levels of potentially toxic trace elements, the study found.
Another key finding showed that unsafe levels of nitrates from fertilizer cloud raw groundwater supplies
for only 5.6 percent of Californians on public water systems but almost all of them are in former
farmland long ago converted to suburbs, Belitz said.
The high readings from former farmland in Northern Californias Livermore Valley and Southern
Californias Santa Ana basin underscore that it can take decades for contamination to show up in public
water systems, Belitz said.
In places such as the Central Valley that are now heavily agricultural, nitrates from fertilizer might be
something that in the future people will be dealing with, he said.
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