Nov 16, 2017

Access to Safety

Editorial Letter

Editor-in-chief Kate Ferguson

When you hear the words “Coachella Valley,” visions of flower crown-wearing millennials dancing at an outdoor concert may spring to mind. But the Coachella Valley is much more than music festivals—it also is home to a key California agricultural sector: date farming.

According to an article recently published on Pacific Standard’s website, the Coachella Valley produces most of the country’s date supply—a whopping 44 million lb per year. All of that harvesting requires a veritable army of agricultural workers, many of whom have settled in mobile home parks throughout the valley.

According to the article, a lack of affordable housing in the area led farm workers to form cooperatives. The article quoted Sergio Carranzo, founder of the nonprofit Pueblo Unido Community Development Corp.: “Once they acquired the land they set up their mobile homes and built their infrastructure with their own knowledge,” he said. “That is great and commendable but the issue was many of them did not follow local permit processes. Consequently, they ended up building these mobile home parks without codes and they are in violation.”

In short: Many of these mobile home parks, which may include anywhere from a dozen to a 100 or more housing units, often lack access to clean drinking water and adequate sewage infrastructure.

Actions are now being taken to remedy these issues. The Coachella Valley Water District launched a Disadvantaged Communities Infrastructure Task Force, which aims to help communities gain access to drinking water, sewage and storm water services. Pueblo Unido also has an assistance program to help mobile home park owners bring their systems up to code. According to the Pacific Standard article, that has included installation of point-of-use reverse osmosis systems in some communities. Despite these efforts, infrastructure improvements are slow going, mainly due to lack of funding. In the past, I have written about other communities across the U.S. that lack access to safe drinking water and sewage disposal, whether due to contamination issues, lack of funds or inability to connect to municipal systems. Organizations are working in these areas to help people gain access to the services they need, such as the Water Well Trust, which helps residents access grant funds to construct drinking water wells.

The water quality industry has a major role to play in these communities as well. With their combination of the right water treatment technologies and expertise, water professionals have the ability to help these communities access what many in the U.S. take for granted: clean drinking water and safe sewage disposal.

If you have experience working with small systems like mobile home parks, we want to hear from you. Find us on social media or email us at [email protected].

About the author

Kate Ferguson | editor-in-chief | [email protected]

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