US Water Prize for Outstanding Journalism: Jose A. Del Real, The New York Times
Paving the Way Towards Equitable Water Access for All
Jose Del Real has dedicated his work in recent years to bringing to light water access inequities in America. Writing for The New York Times, he explored long-standing prejudices in California’s Central Valley, making the case through his reporting for everyone to have access to clean water regardless of their background or socio-economic status. For this important coverage, Jose Del Real has earned the 2020 US Water Prize for Outstanding Journalism.
In 2019, Mr. Del Real began investigating the issues of access to safe drinking water in California’s agricultural communities. In a series of four articles, he tackled the question of why, “in the richest state in the richest country on Earth,” rural, low-income communities, with largely Latinx populations, lack clean drinking water and working wastewater systems for all. Through interviews with community residents and state sources, and a deep dive into relevant data, Mr. Del Real brought to light a tapestry of water challenges, including residents having water that is unsafe for drinking or bathing and others having no running water or active plumbing at all. Environmental challenges, such as California’s recurring droughts, amplify the burdens faced in these rural communities.
Mr. Del Real has not shied away from addressing challenging and technical subjects, such as failing infrastructure, and by doing so, he has both illuminated the complexities of California’s water access challenge and helped those who have been historically underserved be heard. Mr. Del Real’s coverage helped contextualize and amplify the grassroots fight for California legislation, enacted in July 2019, that provides hundreds of millions of dollars to fund infrastructure that will provide clean drinking water to over one million Californians who do not currently have access. That same year, California also created several regional water boards that included leaders from the communities featured in the series of articles. Jose Del Real’s coverage demonstrates how journalism can bolster local voices and humanize water policy innovations, and ultimately advance a One Water for all future.
Before he re-joined the staff of The Washington Post in February of 2020, Mr. Del Real wrote for The New York Times, where he published the series of stories about California’s water issues. He was a finalist for the 2018 Livingston Awards, a prize presented by the University of Michigan honoring journalists under the age of 35 for outstanding national and international reporting. Forbes has named him in their 30 Under 30 list for Media 2020. Watch our video about Jose below. Congratulations, Jose!