California's drought causes a lot more pain than brown lawns and empty swimming pools. - Grist


Stuff that matters


REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

California’s drought causes a lot more pain than brown lawns and empty swimming pools.

report released this week by the Pacific Institute and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water found that “low-income households, people of color, and communities already burdened with environmental pollution” have suffered the most from the five-year dry spell.

The long-running drought has hit people across the state in various ways, leading some to put off washing their cars and forcing others to decide between paying their rent or their water bill. But the report lays out how some have shouldered more of the burden:

  • Water shortages were more likely to happen in already disadvantaged communities. In Tulare County, two-thirds of the some 1,600 reported dry wells were in communities with an average household income of less than 80 percent of the state median.
  • Price hikes for water hit low-income households the hardest. For some families, the costs were insurmountable, accounting for more than 5 percent of household income.
  • The drought has sped up a decline in salmon populations in the Sacramento and Klamath Rivers, squeezing tribal nations that need fish for income, food, and cultural traditions.

The report offers up a list of recommendations to ease the burden. They suggest creating statewide standards to measure and resolve water supply problems, ending surcharges for basic water use, and protecting salmon habitats.