Editorial: Dirty water isn’t just a Flint problem
Two days before primary voters go to the polls in Michigan, Democrats will bring the Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton debate road show to the put-upon city of Flint on Sunday, where they will doubtlessly discuss the city’s well-publicized water crisis. Sanders and Clinton can take turns blaming Republican state officials for their sluggishness in protecting residents from the dangerous levels of lead that leached into their tap water, the result of a temporary cost-saving switch from a tried-and-true lake supply to more corrosive river water.
Or is it? Much of that snowmelt feeds the San Joaquin River, which loses so much water to farms on its flow north that it goes completely dry for a stretch — then picks up again in part on the strength of agricultural and urban runoff, laden with nitrates and other contaminants. It is that dirty water that makes its way to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to be pumped to residents in Silicon Valley and Southern California. Or consider the tap water in the Los Angeles County city of Maywood, which still comes in various colors and odors despite recent legislation imposing strict guidelines on the city’s four private suppliers. Or Santa Monica, whose supply became contaminated with gasoline additives. Or indeed Los Angeles, which has been unable to make much use of its huge San Fernando Valley aquifer because it is contaminated with industrial solvents and chemical waste.
Quality problems and shortages are increasingly reaching crisis proportions for people worldwide regardless of their proximity to vast lakes or rivers. Water security arises not just from adjacent supplies but from adequate wealth and responsible politicians. That’s something to keep in mind as Sanders and Clinton face off in Flint.
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