Water Equity and COVID-19

  • Posted on 23 February 2021
  • By Yvonne Watson, Chair of the Angeles Chapter Environmental Justice Committee

Water Equity and COVID-  19 or Is Water Inequality A More Apt Description?

Health care professionals have reassured the public that you can’t catch COVID-19 from drinking water, but what if you have other worrisome things in your water?  How do you follow the health guidance about washing your hands when you don’t have access to clean water?
I'm a Hispanic/Latina with severe asthma. I live in a predominately Hispanic/Latino city impacted by drinking water contamination. The small water company serving my home uses wells that have tested positive for PFAS, 1,4-Dioxane and radiation. Neighboring communities are also dealing with these contaminants as well as lead, arsenic, hexavalent chromium 6 and others.
Every time I turn on my tap to get a drink, shower, wash my hands, do dishes, and cook meals I wonder what's in my water and what potential effects it is having on my already weakened immune system.  Sadly, there are so many others who are far less fortunate than I, they have no direct access to water at all.
The Coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on water and health disparities in our nation and in SoCal.
A recent study by the Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health, “PFAS exposure linked with worse COVID-19 outcomes” suggests there is a link between PFAS exposure and a community’s susceptibility to COVID-19.
Bottled water is an imperfect option for some tasks, but not all of them, and it is not a sustainable nor environmentally friendly solution.  Conventional water purifiers that can be easily installed at the spigot do not remove all types of pollution and better, more efficient water purification systems are expensive. 
For renters, it can be difficult to convince landlords and property owners to make such an investment in their buildings.  As a community and society how can we address those issues? 
Do we seek redress via a building ordinance, home ordinance, renters ordinance or through a water district/agency? There is no one answer. What we can do however, is attend local city council and water agency meetings and demand solutions during public comment. It is our inalienable right. 
Yvonne Martinez-Watson is the Chair of the Angeles Chapter Environmental & Social Justice Committee and a long time member of the Chapter’s Water Committee.
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Header image: John Nilsson all rights reserved
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