Systemic Failure: Why 1 Million Californians Lack Safe Drinking Water
WOODVILLE, CALIFORNIA – Ralph Gutierrez usually works seven days a week, a punishing schedule he has kept up for the past 14 years. On most days you’ll find him at the office by 6:30 in the morning, the sole occupant of a two-room cement block building with a handful of desks and a “help wanted” sign taped to the front door.
His job? Gutierrez oversees the water and wastewater services for Woodville, a small rural community in eastern Tulare County in California’s San Joaquin Valley. It’s typical of most communities of its size in the area – wide, flat streets with modest homes, the properties fenced at the road. A gas station and a liquor store double as grocery markets, and just a block from the main artery the pavement fades to dirt.
Gutierrez’s job keeps him busy in and out of the office – reading and fixing meters, cleaning out sewers, managing the books, setting agendas for board meetings and, in general, making sure there is enough clean water for the community of 1,800 people. But these days, that is no easy task. Woodville faced water shortages during the state’s recent five-year drought and endures ongoing challenges from contaminated groundwater, the sole source of drinking water for 99 percent of Tulare County’s population. READ MORE ON WATER DEEPLY