Bottle fill-up stations offer safe drinking wate
by Gustavo Solis, originally posted on April 8, 2016
A local program that installs water bottle fill up stations in rural schools and community centers could be a model to increase access to safe drinking water throughout California.
Over the last two years advocacy groups installed 75 fill-up stations in more than 20 locations in the eastern part of Coachella Valley. Stations installed in areas without access to safe drinking water, like the San Jose Community Learning Center in Oasis, have a filtration system that rids water of arsenic and other chemicals.
“We are here today because fundamentally one of the most basic things we need every day is water,” said Judi Larsen, senior program manager for The California Endowment, a Los Angeles-based organization that advocates for health.
The nonprofits Pueblo Unido and Rural Community Assistance Corporation helped install the fill-up stations.
Larsen joined representatives from both groups at Toro Canyon Middle School in Thermal Friday to celebrate the completion of the fill-up station project. Apart from giving children more access to safe drinking water, the stations will also promote greener and healthier lifestyles, Larsen added.
While students at Toro Canyon already had access to safe drinking water, the fill-up stations and free water bottles let student take the water home, where they may not have the same access.
Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia is asking the state for $10 million to expand the pilot program to other rural areas in California. Hundreds of communities throughout the state lack access to safe drinking water, Garcia said.
“With what happened in Flint, Michigan, this has become a huge, eye-opening situation for a lot of people across the country,” he said. “We’ve been out here for a long time saying the same thing. We’ve been the smaller Flint, Michigan, talking about arsenic in the water.”
The fill-up stations are a good way to bring access to areas that lack the infrastructure to support safe drinking water, the assemblyman added.
Castulo Estrada, a Coachella Valley Water District board member, said the agency is working to connect more communities in the east part of the valley to safe-drinking water. Specifically, the board plans to identify communities that are close to existing sewer lines and create some sort of priority system.
“This is work that’s obviously been needed for a long time and we’re happy that the district is now moving in that direction,” Estrada said.