Los Angeles Latino Faith Leaders Unite over California's Drinking Water Crisis

Submit joint letter regarding the more than one million Californians exposed to contaminated water everyday

LOS ANGELES - Today, 35 Latino faith leaders from Los Angeles County submitted a joint letter to Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Adkins outlining their support for the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to help solve California's drinking water crisis. Drinking water for nearly one million Californians, many of which are minority or low-income, comes from public water systems that are failing to meet federal standards. Consuming contaminated water can cause a variety of both short and long-term health effects -birth defects, diabetes, heart disease and cancer - with children and the elderly typically at greatest risk.

"As faith leaders, we see it as our duty to stand up for these disadvantaged communities who are forced to take a risk each time they drink water from the faucet," said Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez, President Churches in Action. "We believe our elected officials have a moral obligation to solve California's crisis and ensure that all individuals have access to safe and affordable drinking water."

The proposal, which is currently a trailer bill on Gov. Jerry Brown's budget, to create the fund enjoys support from over 70 agricultural, health, social justice, environmental, labor organizations and businesses. Agricultural companies and businesses are contributing to the fund, which will help keep the cost per household to less than $0.95 a month to build the needed $140 million fund. The legislation would create a new Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund that would provide infrastructure and maintenance to the 300 California public water systems that are failing to meet federal drinking water standards. The funds will also help consolidate an additional 2 million water users into state regulated systems for the first time.

"Safe and affordable drinking water is a human right that is guaranteed to all Californians through state law, but more than 1 million citizens in 300 communities are subjected to contaminated drinking water every day," said Martin Martinez, the Los Angeles leader of Por La Creación Faith-based Alliance. "Underprivileged communities are saddled with the expense of having to purchase water for drinking cooking and bathing - sometimes spending as much 10 percent of their income on water."

Unsafe drinking water affects hundreds of thousands of households, but water systems serving predominately Latino and low-income communities have disproportionately high occurrences of arsenic and nitrates. Arsenic can cause cancer and high concentrations of nitrates can cause serious problems for infants and small children's capacity to carry oxygen in their blood.

"Every Californian deserves safe, affordable drinking water," said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. "When families don't trust the water coming from their taps, they buy bottled water or worse alternatives like juice or soda, which can exacerbate other health problems like diabetes and obesity. This drinking water crisis could have ramifications that ripple throughout the entire state, not just the affected communities, if we don't take action now."

On May 11, Churches in Action, Por la Creación Faith-based Alliance and Hispanic Access Foundation lead a Prayer Breakfast with more than 50 Latino faith leaders from Los Angeles County during National Drinking Water Week. The faith leaders were joined by representatives from several California assembly members. For a copy of the official letter, visit https://bit.ly/2M0D29d.