News Feature | January 29, 2015

Dirty California Water Linked To Obesity

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

The inaccessibility of clean water in some parts of rural California is linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to a new policy paper.

Titled "Improve Water Quality in Rural Immigrant Communities," the paper by researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that in communities where clean water is not accessible, sugary sodas often take its place.

The research indicated that "low-quality drinking water is a potential barrier to reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in high-poverty rural immigrant communities."

"The prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes in California is higher among low-income minority populations than white affluent populations. A combination of environmental factors, including a lack of access to healthy foods and nutrition education—and safe drinking water—likely contribute to these disparities," the report continued.

Researchers focused on mothers in poor, rural California towns in the Central Valley for their study.

"California’s San Joaquin Valley has the highest rates of drinking water contamination and the greatest number of public water systems with Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) violations in the state," according to the Community Water Center, a group dedicated to correcting these problems.

The policy paper found that even when clean water was accessible, the belief that it might be contaminated prevented households from using it.

"They found that the women would not drink the water or give it to their children because of its 'unpleasant taste, dirty or yellow appearance, excessive iron, and/or general contamination.' Instead, the women purchased bottled water or other drinks at nearby stores. They reported that their children drink soda or sugary drinks at least two to three times per week," according to VICE News.

The study provided recommendations for policymakers.

"Safe tap water should be assured for all communities. Disadvantaged communities, like those in this study, have limited means to purchase water from alternative sources and also cannot improve and maintain their water treatment systems. Increased state funds to agencies already working to identify who is at risk would bring more small water systems into compliance," the policy paper said.

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