What's in your Water

  • Posted on 17 February 2021
  • By Filomena Fuchs, Water Committee Member

A Water Quality Gradebook for LA and OC's Drinking Water

Hollywood Reservoir, Hollywood, California. A major storage area for LA's fresh water needs.

Hollywood Reservoir, Hollywood, California. A major storage area for LA's fresh water needs. John Nilsson all rights reserved

As part of the Sierra Club’s long-standing efforts to protect sources, supplies, and just access to water throughout the country, the Angeles Chapter Water Committee is preparing a tool to evaluate drinking water quality in all cities of Los Angeles and Orange counties. Each of the 123 cities will earn a score from A to F,  to be used to visualize and communicate the current state of regulation compliance and infrastructure reliability. 
The idea of a Water Quality Scorecard grew from the success of the Sierra Club Water Conservation Scorecard project in 2010. That project defined 19 categories evaluating for water conservation measures implemented or updated by Southern California cities over the past 5-10 years.  The water conservation measures enacted by the highest scoring cities provided a roadmap for the remaining cities to align with current best practices.
Threats to water quality are relevant to all people in the Angeles region, particularly as they relate to  climate change, water rates, and environmental justice.  As the climate changes, the predicted increase in frequency and intensity of storms, droughts, and heat waves will influence water levels, runoff, and pollution in our waterways, which will impact salinity, algal production, bacterial blooms, and total oxygen content. As we saw during the early Covid-19 pandemic, unprecedented changes in water supply, demand, or quality can lead to sudden spikes in water rates. Water quality is also known to be worse in low-income communities and communities of color, perpetuating health and environmental inequalities throughout society. However, despite the importance of knowing your drinking water quality, information about drinking water quality is not easy to find and understand.
Therefore, this project serves to open data about drinking water quality to the public. The water quality scorecard has three main goals: 
  1. Assess and communicate the quality of water of all cities in Los Angeles and Orange counties to the public
  2. Put pressure on water agencies to adhere to water quality standards
  3. Inform the reallocation of funds and resources to neighborhoods/cities needing water infrastructure improvements
We will achieve these goals by establishing a selection of metrics based on EPA indications and existing reports, and developing a scoring system based on enforceable standards. We are also comparing EPA standards to those of California’s Public Health Goals (PHGs) and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which are currently not enforceable but are stricter and are closer to scientific health recommendations. The scorecard will be published online, and we are very excited to share it with you all later this year! If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, reach out to us here!
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