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Informational Resources

Case Studies and Success Stories:

Solving Water Issues in Disadvantaged Communities

Additional Information Resources


California Case Studies and Success Stories

Implementing the Human Right to Water in California’s Central Valley: Building a Democratic Voice Through Community Engagement in Water Policy Decision Making. (5/1/2011)
In the Willamette Law Review (WLR), No. 3, Spring 2011, pp 495-537
Rose Francis & Laurel Firestone
Link to the WLR journal:

This article explains the water challenges facing California’s Central valley residents and what implementing the human right to water means and how it can be achieved. The authors present a case study about the Community Water Center’s (a nonprofit organization) collaborative experience with communities in California’s Central Valley to achieve the human right to water and sustainable water justice. They outline four components to achieving universal access to safe, affordable drinking water: physical infrastructure, source water protection, institutional capacity, and community power; and discuss their approach to community empowerment through community engagement. Community empowerment, the authors state, is key to enabling environmental justice communities to hold water policy decision makers accountable and is critical to sustainability.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Disadvantaged Community Planning, Final Report, City of Maywood, CA. (No date identified)
Prepared by TetraTech

A report summarizing efforts in California’s Los Angeles County, with participation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to spur an holistic approach to Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) with a disadvantaged community, the City of Maywood. IRWM planning helps identify regional water management problems and associated solutions. The report discusses the methods and processes used to reach out to the community about their perceived water quality and other environmental issues. It presents the proposed solutions to these problems, the recommended action plan, along with lessons learned for improving outreach and engaging disadvantaged communities.

Disadvantaged Community Water Study for the Tulare Lake Basin: Final Report (August 2014)
Prepared by the Community Water Center, Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group, Self-Help Enterprises, and Keller Wegley Consulting Engineers for the County of Tulare, Submitted to Department of Water Resources, Fresno, CA

This study was undertaken to develop an integrated water quality and wastewater treatment program plan to address the drinking water and wastewater needs of rural and unincorporated disadvantaged communities in California’s Tulare Lake Basin. The study was funded by a state grant and spans a four-county area including Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties. The plan’s main objective was to provide these disadvantaged communities with a safe, effective and affordable water supply and wastewater treatment. The report describes the tasks undertaken, including creating a database of the basin’s disadvantaged communities, conducting stakeholder involvement and community outreach, identifying priority issues and potential solutions, developing pilot projects, and identifying funding opportunities. It also offers recommendations for other communities that are interested in pursuing the alternatives presented.

Film: Thirsty for Justice: The Struggle for the Human Right to Water (February 2014)
Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry of California (UUJMC)

This documentary traces the stories and years-long activism in California communities that led to the successful passage of California’s 2012 Human Right to Water Bill (AB 685). People in many of these disadvantaged communities face numerous water and sanitation problems, ranging from contaminated, inaccessible, or unaffordable water to water policies they claim are undemocratic and unsustainable. A trailer about the documentary and information about obtaining or showing it is available on the UUMJC website.

Rural towns devise unique plan to solve water problems (May 14, 2012)
Bernice Yeung

This article provides an overview of a unique collaborative solution to provide safe and affordable water in the communities of Allensworth and Alpaugh in Tulare County, California. The two rural community water districts, whose water wells exceed federal levels for arsenic, are planning to combine with the Angiola Water district, which sells water for irrigation, to deliver drinking water.

Tribal Case Studies and Success Stories

The Cherokee Word for Water: Feature Film Project

This feature-length motion picture is based on the true story of the Bell Waterline Project, a rural Cherokee community’s efforts to bring running water to their families. Community members built nearly twenty miles of waterlines using the traditional concept of ‘gadugi,’ which means working together to solve a problem. Wilma Mankiller was instrumental in the project, and subsequently became the first modern Chief of the Cherokee Nation. The movie is available for purchase or screening.

Colonias (U.S.-Mexico Border Region) Case Studies and Success Stories

Clean Water is a Prayer Answered in El Paso’s Colonias (August 2, 2012)
Nicole Chavez, Borderzine

This article describes efforts that, after more than six years of negotiations with city, county and federal authorities, have resulted in approximately 300 families in two Canutillo colonias obtaining potable water running in their kitchens and bathrooms.

Residents in Schuman Estates and Mayfair Nuway, two colonias located just outside city limits in Canutillo, a small town west of El Paso, have used contaminated well water for more than 20 years because officials were unaware of the lack of running water. When residents approached a priest at a local church, efforts were initiated to alert authorities and apply for and obtain funding for water projects. Despite obstacles along the way, residents hope to have running water in the near future.

Impoverished Border Town Grows from Shacks into Community (July 9, 2011)
Emanuella Grinberg, CNN http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/07/05/texas.colonias/index.html

News article describing several underserved Texas communities’ success in obtaining basic services like streetlights, running water, paved streets, electricity, and mailboxes. It highlights strategies used to determine communities’ wants and needs and to improve living conditions in underserved border communities, such as sending specially trained women, graduates of Texas A&M’s promotora program, into communities. This approach has been an effective way of disseminating information and building trust.