California offers a glimpse of life without water

While the new Regional Water Authority promises to arrange financial support for customers with low incomes, the prospect of households being without clean water — however unintended by the water authority — remains a concern for population health advocates. The New York Times last week published an article on how the drought in California is impacting lives: “With Dry Taps and Toilets, California Drought Turns Desperate.” One of the subjects of the story, Angelica Gallegos, an employee of a citrus packing plant, hasn’t had running water for more than five months. She is one of 500 others who can’t flush toilets or drink water from a faucet, much less wash dishes or clothing. The Gallegos family’s drinking water comes from bottles received through charity. They are able to get water from a county fire station reservoir, which often runs out. The State of California has acknowledged that 700 households in the state are without running water. However, it’s believed that the number is likely higher.

Some estimate that as many as 1,000 Detroiters have had their water service discontinued. Theoretically, river water is available a few miles from most residents. Others are illegally tapping fire hydrants. And charities are providing water as needed.

The Population Health Council, in a public letter, is hopeful that state and county officials create a sustainable water service for low income populations who would also qualify for expanded Medicaid health insurance and other forms of social assistance. While water service is a utility, like heat and power, it is also an essential resource for life. Low income households should not have to exist without running water when a natural disaster such as a drought isn’t the cause.

To read the full article in the New York Times, visit