A resounding call for immediate action echoed across the State Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, as over 400 advocates from social justice, labor unions, construction, community-based organizations, housing, and water advocacy groups united in a powerful demonstration of solidarity.
Influential national and California leaders —including Marc Morial, CEO and President of the National Urban League, stood shoulder to shoulder with California leaders, including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and CA Superintendent of Education Tony Thurmond—took the stage, urging legislative leaders to urgently confront the State’s escalating water and housing crisis. Together, they emphasized the crucial importance of clean water as a fundamental human right, accessible to all Californians, irrespective of their background or community.
The statewide coalition behind the event, named Groundswell for Water Justice, comprises over 1,500 community, civil rights, labor, and infrastructure leaders. Prompted by the 2021 CA State Auditor’s report, which revealed that nearly 1 million Californians, with 65% being people of color, lack access to clean water, the coalition vowed to address the issue head-on, noting that the water crisis was accentuated by climate change-induced extreme weather events such as atmospheric rivers and heatwaves occurring at an alarming rate.
Leaders also pointed out that California’s water infrastructure was built over a century ago for a population of 20 million and is ill-equipped for the current population of 40 million. The coalition emphasized the necessity to capture, purify, and convey water to areas in need, addressing not only drinking water needs but also crucial housing mandates.
Acknowledging the importance of conservation, the coalition emphasized the need for a dual approach: both conservation and construction are vital to effectively address the water crisis.
Groundswell co-founder Robert Sausedo—who has referred to equity in the water crisis as “the civil rights issue of our time”— was more than pleased with the turnout and the event’s success.
“Several 100 people who are directly impacted by this issue of clean safe drinking water joined us to raise their voices towards a clarion call for justice for the have-nots to share in the same privileges of the haves when it comes to water,” Sausedo said.
“The goal now is to continue moving forward in our efforts to organize the state and bring on more organizations to participate with the 52 organizations across the state that are currently involved and advocate for those who are too often overlooked and to ensure that both state and federal legislatures continue to do the right thing for those who are disenfranchised when it comes down to one of the most critical needs —clean water.”