Asociación de Gente Unida por el Agua (AGUA)

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AGUA represents the inspiring and effective voice of 26 communities with limited access to safe drinking water in California. As low-income and predominantly Latino communities, they speak to the structural and economic disparities that impede their ability to realize their human rights. Also impeded is their financial ability to subsidize the cost of filtration and purification of water to drink, bathe, cook, clean, work and cultivate land in their neighborhoods.

AGUA has advocated for the equitable distribution of clean water in times of plenty – and most recently, in ensuring the safety and sufficiency of water in times of drought. They understand the impact of contaminants from factory farms and chemical fertilizers on human health.  They effectively communicate the short and long-term implications of lack of access to clean water and the need to preserve our aquifers as part of respecting and protecting the global commons for future generations.

Address:
900 W. Oak Avenue
Visalia, CA 93291
www.communitywatercenter.org/agua_coalition

Mission:

Asociación de Gente Unida por el Agua (AGUA) is a grassroots coalition of 334 members and supporters from 26 low-income and people of color communities, including: youth and private well owners, 12 community-based organizations, and 12 nonprofit allies dedicated to securing safe, clean and affordable drinking water in California’s San Joaquin Valley. We work to clean up existing pollution and prevent water from further contamination.

History:

AGUA was founded in 2006 in response to the vast drinking water contamination in the San Joaquin Valley. They have coordinated a multi-faceted advocacy effort to achieve clean drinking water for their communities. The Human Right to Water Bill passed in California in 2012, with significant advocacy efforts from AGUA. AGUA delivered outcomes and accomplishments in 2018 including successfully advocating for the regulation of carcinogen 1,2,3,-TCP; facilitating 755 properties in East Porterville, where many residents were without water for more than two years due to drought; getting connected to the public water system of the neighboring town; and a multi-year consolidation project involving five small, neighboring communities, which can serve as a model for regional water treatment.

The Issues:

More than one million Californians have unsafe drinking water due to contamination. 210,724 of them are in the San Joaquin Valley. This contamination is a direct result of unsustainable practices by irrigated agriculture and animal factories. This disproportionately affects rural, low-income, and largely Latino farmworker communities and renders community water supplies unsafe to drink, cook with, and bathe. Decades of a lack of regulations, poor planning and disinvestment, in some cases intentional, have made AGUA’s communities extremely vulnerable and underinvested. This is critical to address now more than ever, as the San Joaquin Valley’s population is booming.

Constituency and Leadership:

Approximately 90% of AGUA members are Latino and many are either monolingual Spanish or limited English speakers. Each community, youth and organization designates one Coordinating Council Representative. Only impacted residents hold decision-making power. Work is done collaboratively by all AGUA community representatives. Oversight is provided by AGUA’s Coordinating Council. Facilitation and organizing support comes from the staff and ongoing advice and assistance from non-voting NGO partners.

Tackling Oppressive Structures:

AGUA works to bring clean and safe water to their rural, low-income communities and build community power for social and environmental justice through education, leadership development, community organizing, advocacy and monitoring important processes related to water management. AGUA works to give voice to their communities. Last year, two AGUA members were elected to their local water boards. Through the Coalition, the new water board members are getting the information and resources they need to be effective in their roles. AGUA has also participated in voter engagement with Latino voters in rural communities.

Movement Building:

AGUA works with several NGOs working in similar issue areas or with similar populations. These provide important connections to state and national advocacy organizations and help make sure the Coalition has the most updated information for each campaign or advocacy effort. They also have Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) that represent action committees from AGUA’s member communities and bring updates from their local work to the Coalition.

Evaluation:

At AGUA monthly meetings, members plan and evaluate progress of the annual campaigns. They provide reports on progress, barriers and next steps towards each objective. They track media coverage and progress on measurable objectives. They also track more qualitative information in quarterly reports, including success stories, the progress of different water justice initiatives or projects, challenges, lessons learned and any recommendations for changes in the future.

Long-term Vision for Change:

AGUA sees that their communities need funding for long-term solutions, including consolidation, operations and maintenance for small water systems. AGUA works to give a platform and voice to their communities and ensure they have a place at the table, equipping themselves with the knowledge, skills and avenues to advocate for their rights. Their advocacy efforts change policies and planning processes, creating systemic change that directly impacts similar communities.

Organization Budget:  $93,000
Request: $10,000

Raised to date this week: $7,550

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