The Stream, February 16, 2022: Advocates Say Nitrate Contamination in San Joaquin Valley Wells Remains Widespread Despite Testing Program

A farm field in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue


  • A new study finds that the megadrought in the American West is the worst in more than a thousand years.
  • Scientists say the world’s glaciers hold even less freshwater than previously thought.
  • A water utility in Great Britain fails to inform residents that their water was contaminated with PFAS chemicals.
  • Outreach for California’s nitrate control program is lacking, according to advocates.

New Mexican legislators table a proposal to guarantee environmental rights in the state’s constitution.

“If you don’t think that people are entitled to the rights of a clean and healthy environment and you don’t think they’re entitled to vote to decide for themselves, tell them outright. Have the courage of your convictions.” – Maya van Rossum, an environmental rights activist in Pennsylvania more than a decade ago. A resolution proposing an amendment to New Mexico’s constitution that would have guaranteed clean air, water, and land was tabled at a legislative session this week. New Mexico’s legislative session is only 30 days long this year—it ends this week. Without support from both the House and the Senate, the bill will remain off New Mexicans’ ballots this November.

In Context: New York voters approved a similar amendment last year, guaranteeing environmental rights in their state constitution. The change could have consequences, Circle of Blue reported last November. In states like Pennsylvania that have similar constitutional language, courts have pointed to the amendments as justification for striking down state laws that put a healthy environment at risk.

In Recent Water News

In Case You Missed It:

Nebraska Agrochemical Contamination Throws Families, Communities, Water Providers into Turmoil – The harrowing trail of toxic nutrients in farm country water.

What’s Up With Water—February 15, 2022 – Your “need to know” news of the world’s water from Circle of Blue. This week: snow-making for the Beijing Olympics and Baltimore’s new income-based water rate. Plus the second part of a CoB report on nitrates in groundwater.

Drought in American West Worst in 12 Centuries

A new study from the University of California, Los Angeles found that the megadrought in the American Southwest is the worst in the region in the last 1,200 years. The analysis found that human activity played a major role in the drought’s severity. Previous studies had suggested the drought, which began in 2000, was only the worst in 500 years.

More drought news:

  • Drought has thrust 13 million people in the Horn of Africa into hunger, the UN says.
  • A village in Spain was flooded in 1992 to make room for a reservoir. Now, the Aceredo village is reemerging as drought dries up the reservoir.

Read Circle of Blue’s drought coverage: Drought in the American West

This Week’s Top Water Stories, Told In Numbers


New research has found that the world’s glaciers contain 20 percent less water than previously thought. Scientists say these findings have major implications for drinking water availability, as well as water supplies for power generation, agriculture industry and other uses.


Cambridge Water, a utility in Great Britain, revealed that it removed a supply of water containing four times the regulatory limit of PFOS, a toxic “forever chemical,” but did not notify 1,080 customers living in the towns of Stapleford and Great Shelford that they had been exposed to the chemicals. The company did not say how long the water was contaminated, according to reporting from The Guardian.

On the Radar

Advocates in the San Joaquin Valley say they are worried that not enough wells are being tested for nitrate contamination, and outreach for California’s nitrate control program is lacking. The program launched more than nine months ago in May of 2021, offering free water to residents whose wells test over the regulatory limit. As of January 31, only 455 households were receiving bottled water deliveries through the program. Advocates like Bryan Osorio, who works with the nonprofit Community Water Center, says those numbers are too low. Staff at the Community Water Center say that many residents have either never heard of the program or do not know how to apply for services.

In context: Nitrate is the most violated, and least regulated, agrochemical in the United States. A map of drinking water nitrate violations resembles a map of America’s high-value farm regions. In Nebraska, research has found that high levels of nitrate may be to blame for the state’s outsized pediatric cancer caseload. Read Circle of Blue’s two-part series on the harrowing trail of toxic nutrients in farm country water.

More Water News

As U.S. states attempt to adapt to climate change, many officials are struggling to find updated reports of rainfall that could be crucial to updating infrastructure.

Water sellers in Madagascar say back-to-back storms have replenished quickly diminishing supplies.

U.S. representatives in Hawaii introduced legislation to permanently shut down the U.S. Navy’s fuel storage facility near Pearl Harbor, where jet fuel leaked into drinking water late last year.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply