Rick Callender (Courtesy Image)

In many communities of color, severe drought conditions result in a lack of safe and reliable drinking water for families that are already struggling to meet their day-to-day needs. According to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), more than 250 water systems serving nearly a million people were out of compliance with drinking water standards in 2020.  The vast majority of those were in low-income and disadvantaged communities.  


And with climate change already resulting in longer periods of drought and periodic flash floods, we have to upgrade our infrastructure to adapt. Communities of color are at greater risk from the fallout resulting from climate change.  


That’s why the NAACP supports Governor Newsom’s plan to fix our failing water infrastructure through the Delta Conveyance Project. Without action, problems with access to reliable water in disadvantaged communities will continue to grow. 


The fact is our state’s main water distribution infrastructure hasn’t been able to keep up with the needs of our growing population, or the effects of climate change, for decades. Improving our state’s main water distribution infrastructure through the Delta is critical to help ensure all communities, and particularly communities of color, have access to safe, affordable and reliable water supplies in the face of our changing climate. 


More than two-thirds of Californians rely on a system that was constructed more than 60 years ago to deliver water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to homes, farms and businesses throughout the state, including the Central Valley, Bay Area, Southern California and San Diego. However, this water delivery system needs to be modernized to better prepare for impacts of climate change.  


In the past 12 months alone, we’ve experienced the climatic see-saw between extreme drought and severe floods, and we’re constantly fighting the increasing water salinity in the Delta resulting from rising sea levels. The Delta project will engineer a system that better captures water when it is abundant, so it’s available during periods of extreme drought. 


The status quo just isn’t working. The Delta Conveyance Project will create a single pipeline that is designed to collect and move enough water when it is available to provide ample water security for homes, farms, and businesses. 


This project also makes good economic sense, especially for working families. The fact is, moving forward with this critical water project will create good middle-class jobs and help protect millions of other jobs—and the families they support–that depend on a reliable supply of clean water. 


This project has been studied, engineered, re-engineered and improved over the course of a few decades, and is very different from previous conveyance proposals. It has been downsized, refined, rerouted, and redesigned to be the right project for California. 


We don’t have time to waste – there is too much at stake for our communities. The time to move forward with a project that will finally address the state’s perpetual water crisis is now. 


Rick L. Callender, Esq., is the president of the California/Hawaii State Conference NAACP.