February 25 2016

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Town Hall in Sacramento Sparks Critical Conversation On Water Inequity, Calls for Solutions Statewide

Sacramento, Calif., (February 25, 2016) – Personal stories of surviving without access to clean and safe drinking water in many California communities underscored a critical conversation Wednesday afternoon during a Town Hall in Sacramento, featuring water policy experts, advocates and community voices.

The town hall, hosted by The California Endowment and the California Museum, ignited a critical conversation in California as part of The Endowment’s #Agua4All campaign, which raises awareness about the lack of access to clean and safe water for roughly one million Californians.

“California’s lack of water policy and infrastructure, particularly in the unincorporated parts of the Central Valley and Coachella Valley, are vulnerable to Flint-level failure,” said Laurel Firestone, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Community Water Center, who participated in Wednesday’s panel in front of a crowd of nearly 100 people. “Our underserved communities are the hardest hit, with families spending up to ten percent of their income on bottled water because they don’t have a choice. Money that should be going towards food or housing is instead going towards something the rest of us take for granted.”

Water is especially scarce at many of the state’s public schools; one in every four of California’s nearly 10,000 schools doesn’t meet state and federal requirements for providing drinking water.

“My family and I are coming up on two years now without drinking water in our own home,” said Tomas Garcia, who lives in East Porterville, along with his wife and two daughters, ages 10 and 14. “The United States is the richest, most powerful country in the world, and we are a forgotten community. We have no justice for water.”

“This should be a wake-up call for California’s leaders and policy-makers,” said Daniel Zingale, Senior Vice President at The California Endowment. “On one hand, you’ve got bottling companies and mega-users who are water gluttons, and on the other, you have families in California’s most underserved communities who can’t even give their child a bath in safe water, let alone drink it. The state has to stop allowing this water gap to persist.”

The town hall discussion was punctuated by a reception at the museum in front of the new exhibit, “Kingdom of Dust: Drought & Decline in California’s Central Valley.” The exhibit just opened on February 2 and chronicles the human effects of the state’s ongoing drought – which has compounded some of the state’s most entrenched poverty. The exhibit features the work of Tulare County-based photographer Matt Black, who also gave the keynote speech for the evening.

For more information about the exhibit, please visit this link.

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About The California Endowment

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental affordable improvements in the health status of all Californians. Headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, The Endowment has regional offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno and San Diego, with program staff working throughout the state. The Endowment challenges the conventional wisdom that medical settings and individual choices are solely responsible for people’s health. Through its ‘Health Happens Here’ campaign and ten-year initiative for Building Healthy Communities, The Endowment is creating places where children are healthy, safe and ready to learn. At its core, The Endowment believes that health happens in neighborhoods, schools, and with prevention. For more information, visit The California Endowment’s homepage at www.calendow.org.

About California Museum

A self-supporting 501(c)3 non-profit, the California Museum — home of the California Hall of Fame — engages, educates and enlightens people about California’s rich history and unique contributions to the world through ideas, innovation, arts and culture. Through interactive and innovative experiences, the Museum inspires visitors to make their own mark on history. Open Tues.-Sat. 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Sun.: 12:00 p.m. to5:00 p.m.; closed Mondays. Admission: adults $9.00; college students & seniors $7.50 with valid ID; youth 6-17: $7.00; kids 5 and under free. For more information, visit http://www.CaliforniaMuseum.org.

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