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White House Honors Tulare County Water Advocate

Community Water Center
Susana De Anda co-founded the Community Water Center with one other person in 2006. Today, the center has 15 staff members and offices in Visalia and Sacramento.

When we talk about water in the San Joaquin Valley, it’s often to highlight water problems, like dry wells, contaminated drinking water or, more recently, toxic algae in lakes and reservoirs. But the news isn’t all bad: local advocate Susana De Anda recently received an award from the White House for her work bringing clean water to San Joaquin Valley communities. She's the co-director and co-founder of the Community Water Center, a non-profit that lobbies policymakers, pursues grants and helps communities organize around gaining access to safe drinking water. FM89’s Kerry Klein sat down with De Anda at her office in Visalia to talk water, climate, and what it means to be a White House “Champion of Change.”

“Every year, over a million Californians are exposed to illegal and unsafe contaminants found in their drinking water,” says De Anda. “In addition to that, we're paying some really expensive water rates for toxic water. What that means is that our hard-working familias are having to pay twice for water: for a toxic water bill, and then, in addition to that, having to find additional drinking water just to have safe drinking water in the home.

“It is not okay to have nitrates in your drinking water. It is not safe to have arsenic or 1,2,3-TCP or anything of that nature in your drinking water. It's just not safe and it shouldn't be there.”

Credit Community Water Center
De Anda, second from right, speaks at a White House panel with five other Champions of Change for Climate Equity.

The White House recently named De Anda a Champion of Change for Climate Equity, an award she ascribes to the center’s focus on tailoring its water projects to each individual community it works with.

“Climate equity means that we're bringing about solutions to people impacted by climate change in a way that's practical and real,” she says. “We have to really sit around the table and figure out solutions that are going to be applicable to the unique situations of our communities. That's equity.

“And I think it's important to recognize that climate change is very real and it's happening right now with a lot of our community partners. A lot of families right now in California don't have running water, and I think it's important to understand that water quality and water supply go hand in hand.”

Listen to the audio file above for the rest of the interview.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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