California Institute for Rural Studies

Episode 15: Water Is Gold: How Central Valley Communities are Still Fighting the Drought

Woman holding a glass of water

Ahorita lo que estamos viviendo, es que antes pensaban que el oro valía mucho. No. El agua es oro ahorita- ahorita si no tienes agua no puedes producir lo que tienes. 

What we’re learning right now is– before we thought that gold was worth a lot. No. Water is gold now. If you don’t have water you can’t produce what you have. 

–Tomas, resident of East Porterville and water justice advocate

California, the golden state, is known for many things, chief among them is its status as the breadbasket of the nation and the world. Yet, the ability to sustain agriculture and support the communities is limited by access to water. This podcast examines how access to groundwater is influenced by drought and climate change, but also, how the persistence of drought conditions can be tied to histories of human decision-making and structural racism within the Central Valley. 

This story features guest co-producers Dr. Clare Gupta and Cristina Murillo-Barrick; two social scientists on a team of hydrologists, engineers and economists at UC Davis.  As part of a larger National Science Foundation research project, Clare and Cristina partnered with the Community Water Center to collect bilingual narratives of impacted residents who don’t have access to safe and affordable drinking water. They spent time talking with people who live and struggle with these issues every day to learn about experiences, strategies and triumphs related to water justice. They also spoke to leading researchers on California water issues. 

This podcast was made possible thanks to ongoing collaboration with the Community Water Center/El Centro Comunitario por el Agua and funding from the National Science Foundation’s Coupled Natural Human Systems grant.

We would like to extend a special thanks to everyone who contributed. Community narratives feature several Central Valley residents and water justice advocates: Lucy Hernandez, Melynda Metheney, Vergie Nuñez, Cristobal Chavez, Tomas Garcia, Daniel Peñaloza and Susana de Anda. Researchers include Dr. Jonathan Herman, Mark Arax and Camille Pannu. Podcast editors and collaborators include Ryan Jensen and Ildi Carlisle-Cummins. Audio edits by Victoria Boston and podcast and Cal Ag Roots theme music by Nangdo. 

Photo Caption and Credit: Maria Elena Orozco from East Orosi examines a glass of her drinking water, picture taken by Community Water Center

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