Water pollution is a major concern in the Western region of the United States, especially in California. According to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), Every year roughly $10 Billion is spent on water pollution control in California, with the vast majority being for site specific sources of pollution such as wastewater treatment(Chappelle, Hanak). Water pollution comes from point and nonpoint sources. Storm water runoff is a nonpoint source that can lead to harmful chemicals ending up in the water supply. California has passed laws requiring cities to limit and clean up pollution from storm water runoff. However, the new storm water regulations are largely ineffective. Currently in the City of San Diego alone, it is estimated that over 2400 businesses were operating without the necessary water pollution control permit(Rivard). The state of California and it’s cities lack the necessary resources to ensure businesses comply with their water pollution control laws.
San Joaquin Valley has the worst water pollution problem in California. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the people affected are from small rural counties which are disproportionately poor and Latino. Some residents are unaware of the water pollution problem due to a lack of information, being unable to understand the language the information is displayed in, and the fact that private water wells are not required to undergo testing. Pollutants such as pesticides, arsenic, nitrates and various other toxic substances can be found in the water. According to the PPIC, Solutions for at-risk communities statewide would require additional expenditures of $30“$160 million annually, and this number is likely to grow as requirements are tightened(Chappelle, Hanak). Clean water should be a basic human right and the benefits of having clean water far outweigh the cost of providing clean water. All humans, animals and plants need water to survive so it is important for water to be minimally polluted. Some possible remedies for this problem include giving tax incentives to companies who control their pollution, fining companies for polluting the water, increasing information to community members and policy makers, empowering minorities, and altering public policies to make them more effective. Additionally, in poorer areas such as San Joaquin Valley water quality laws should focus on vertical equity to make sure all incomes have access to clean water not just richer areas. These remedies can greatly ease and possibly eliminate some of the water pollution concerns in California.
In California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada droughts are a major water quality concern as they significantly increase pollutants in the water. Relatively recently, Arizona, California, Utah, and Nevada have all been impacted by droughts. Research suggests that Lake Mead “ a reservoir that supplies water to over 25 million people in California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada – has shrunk to record lows(Plumer). Climate change and weather patterns can be seen as potential causes for the droughts. There are not many benefits to droughts, however droughts can raise awareness and interest in water quality projects. A main problem during droughts is that a rivers flow decreases due to decreased amounts of water. The low flow and accompanying temperature increase leads to low levels of oxygen in the water. Living organisms need oxygen to survive, so the decreased oxygen levels greatly threaten wildlife and can cause algal blooms. Algal blooms can destroy water supplies because they produce toxins that are harmful to humans. Also, droughts can cause the salinity of water to increase which threatens agriculture. Two possible ways to control algal blooms include aerating the water to ensure it is getting enough oxygen, and using ultrasound waves to combat algae growth. Prevention and using strategies to limit the pollution are the most cost effective ways to ensure that water quality is not affected by algae.
Additionally, there is technology that can be used to desalinate water through the process of reverse osmosis. This technology can remove the saline pollutant from the water, but it is a very costly process. Investing in this technology now would be very beneficial because as the climate continues to change and droughts become more prevalent, water supplies will be limited and desalinization can help fix the quality of water and make it drinkable for humans. Policy solutions should be in place aimed at preventing droughts because it is much more cost effective to try and prevent and limit droughts then to deal with the impacts of one.
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