Water Equity Clearinghouse

Community Water Center

Central Valley, CA

Community Water Center (CWC) is a grassroots environmental justice organization founded with the vision of ensuring that all communities have access to safe, clean, and affordable water. The organization’s approach addresses both the effects and the causes of inadequate infrastructure, by bringing services to underserved areas and working towards greater accountability and participation in water governance. Their work empowers vulnerable communities to take a central role in building equitable water systems.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

It is estimated that more than one million people in California are exposed to contaminated water at home and in public places. Residents of the Central Valley face water contamination and scarcity, lack of infrastructure, and affordability challenges. Low-income communities, communities of color (especially Latino populations), people served by small water systems, and people in unincorporated areas disproportionately experience these challenges. Community Water Center uses community organizing, policy advocacy, and public education to bring community voices to water governance and decision-making in the Central Valley of California.

For communities that currently lack access to safe water due to inadequate infrastructure, groundwater contamination, or drought, CWC provides assistance until more long-term solutions can be developed. The organization has supported projects that help households and schools install short-term water solutions, including installing water vending machines, installing point of use filters for taps and drinking fountains, conducting private well testing, and conducting outreach to facilitate bottled and hauled water delivery. Alongside their work to bring immediate relief to the hardest-hit communities, the organization advocates for greater engagement in water decision-making processes among low-income communities of color. CWC provides educational materials and organizes communities to advocate for local, regional, and statewide solutions.

Since it opened in 2006, CWC has worked with 80 water-stressed communities and provided technical and legal assistance to over 15 local water boards. Thousands of residents have been trained as water advocates, spreading their expertise through their communities. Small, low-income communities with struggling water systems have worked with CWC to secure $17 million in state funding for sustainable drinking water projects, benefitting about 13,340 people in the San Joaquin Valley. CWC also works on rural drought resiliency planning locally, regionally, and statewide. Through connecting on-the-ground community organizing in the southern San Joaquin Valley to state policy work, CWC is an effective environmental justice organization whose policy agenda is formed by the voice of impacted community residents. CWC’s model demonstrates the importance of community knowledge and participation in building equitable water systems.