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Low-Income Communities Hit Hardest By Drought, Says Report

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Ezra David Romero
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Valley Public Radio
Before East Porterville consolidated with nearby Porterville's water system, "water angel" Donna Johnson and her 19-year-old recruit delivered water to homes whose wells had run dry.

A report released this week argues the consequences of the drought have been more pronounced in some communities than others.

The analysis from the Pacific Institute and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water says water shortages, hikes in water rates and fishery declines have been concentrated in low-income and disadvantaged communities. Additionally, Laura Feinstein with the Pacific Institute says those effects extend beyond the central valley, even to typically wet areas on the North Coast and Central Coast.

"So even though we know the valley was maybe the epicenter of the drought’s impacts, it was around the state that people were feeling it," Feinstein says.

She says now is the time to be preparing for the next drought.

"We could be doing some work to start to predict what areas are going to run dry in future droughts," she says. "We could also be putting in some more drought resiliency plans now."

The report also argues for the protection of commercially fished salmon species.

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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