The Human Right to Water: A 20-Year Comparative Analysis of Arsenic in Rural and Carceral Drinking Water Systems in California
Abstract/Summary: Access to safe drinking water is considered a universal human right. In the U.S., exposure to arsenic contamination in drinking water disproportionately impacts small, groundwater-reliant communities and communities of color. Limited research exists on water quality in prisons; however, prisons in the Southwestern U.S. have elevated arsenic concentrations compared to other community water systems (CWS) in the region. In this paper we present a comparative analysis of 20 years of data (2001-2021) on arsenic concentrations in the CWSs serving Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) and three neighboring rural communities: Allensworth, Delano, and McFarland. Our objective was to better understand trends in water quality, compliance, and treatment following adoption of the revised arsenic MCL, and to elucidate differences, if any, between neighboring incarcerated and non-incarcerated populations.