CHRISTIAN MENDEZ / Coachella Unincorporated
COACHELLA — On Monday night, the eastern Coachella Valley’s Agua 4 All program was featured on Univision’s national Health Week. The segment was aired on the Spanish-language news show, Primer Impacto.
Agua 4 All, an initiative of The California Endowment, aims to increase the accessibility of clean drinking water in communities that largely rely on contaminated groundwater. The program was first launched in the eastern Coachella Valley in January 2015 before expanding to South Kern County.
Since launching the program in January, The California Endowment, in partnership with local organizations like Pueblo Unido Community Development Corporation and the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, has been working to install “taps” or water bottle refilling stations in schools and community centers throughout the region. To date, 120 water stations have been installed in the eastern Coachella Valley and in South Kern County.
Sergio Carranza, executive director of Pueblo Unido CDC, said he was thrilled when Univision contacted him to produce a story on the Agua 4 All program in the east valley.
“[Univision] wanted to know better about the issue of the water,” Carranza said. “The Agua 4 All campaign’s main objective here is to increase access to drinking water so that kids can start giving priority to water rather than drinking soft drinks or soda. So we are installing these water bottle refilling stations.”
The east valley has long felt the poor health effects of not having access to clean drinking water. In 2011, the UCLA center for Health Policy research conducted a health profile of the eastern Coachella Valley, and found 52 percent of children were regularly consuming soda or sugary drinks, a habit that can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Carranza said the Univision story was a great opportunity to raise awareness about access to drinking water, but he also said the media coverage has helped lift the long-standing issue of contaminated water in rural communities to a national level.
“The Agua 4 All campaign also has started the dialogue about the issue of contaminated water, and that is something that cannot be ignored,” Carranza said. “For example, how can you provide access to drinking water when sometimes the water is not safe to drink.”
Installing the water bottling refilling stations or “taps” has not been an issue at local schools because they are all connected to municipal water systems. But Pueblo Unido has had to pilot point-of-use and point-of-entry filtration systems in the Polanco parks, or mobile home communities, where the ground water is contaminated with arsenic.
During Univision’s coverage of Agua 4 All in the east valley, reporters spoke to the owners of the Duarte Mobile Home Park and showed video footage of a point-of-use filtration system that was installed under a resident’s sink.
Megan Beaman, a member of the Building Healthy Communities Eastern Coachella Valley Neighborhoods Action Team and the director of a community advocacy law firm, Beaman Law, said she was encouraged by the national media attention that highlighted the great work going on in the east valley.
“In the Eastern Coachella Valley we are finding innovative solutions to problems that otherwise people find very daunting,” Beaman said.