By ignoring water policy reforms, Congress members violating Latino civil rights

By Luis Alvarado, Familias Unidas de California

With well over half of California’s nearly 18 million voters living in Southern California, it is mind boggling that our representatives continue to completely disregard the urgent need for a coherent water policy.

Not a single member of the Southern California congressional delegation has had the courage to proactively advocate for any water legislation that would benefit our region. 

With all their political clout, why are our representatives content to allow the north’s senators and house members dictate terms for us? Giving them all the power has only resulted in partisan gridlock and claims of powerlessness.

The Southland’s shameful shirking of responsibility hurts all low-income populations and the working class, but especially Latinos. Unlike the wealthy elites of Beverly Hills who can afford to ignore water conservation and pay fines, Latinos are being expected to bear the disproportionate impact of the drought and keep their silence.

They ask us to sacrifice by cutting back our use of the water our families need. If we don’t, we pay steep fines. As water use falls, they raise our water rates. Our food prices are rising. Our jobs are vanishing.

Providing access to a safe, predictable and affordable water supply is as basic a public service as government should provide. For many like me, congressional inaction on water policy is essentially a violation of our civil rights.

Why are our members of Congress AWOL on water policy? They have had plenty of opportunity to support a broad range of proposals that would benefit California and the entire West, an area where our brothers and sisters are also being decimated by the drought.

Millions of Southern Californians and 110 million other Americans — most living in the 12 western states — are crumbling under the burden of higher water and food costs. Everyone is suffering from trickling water supplies. In some cases communities and tens of thousands of people have no water at all. Businesses and farms alike are struggling. 

Who is the most likely group to be hurt the most? You’ve got it: California Latinos and other hard working residents, apparently, our state’s second-class citizens.

What is truly disturbing is the fact Southern California is expecting a heavy rainy season due to El Nino. Yet there is no plan for what will happen with all this rain. Despite decades to plan, there still is no plan for capturing as much water as possible or effectively managing our water system in ways that minimize impact to Southern Californians.

Our delegation in Congress can play a role by tossing partisan politics aside and committing to a broader multi-state approach of open dialogue that all of Congress can support.

It is long past time for the state’s congressional delegation — both Republicans and Democrats, along with career bureaucrats at the Department of the Interior, and even the White House — to lead by example.  Southern California and the entire West is waiting, and has waited far too long, for more storage, more flexible regulations, more short-term financial relief and more commitment to finding long-term solutions focused on supplying water to our state’s growing population.

We face a national security threat if our government cannot assure its people that they will have reliable water supplies for drinking, household use and food production. Without it we lose control over public health and nutrition. We put our environment at risk. We put honest people out of work. We destroy our economy. We destroy our people.

Our delegation seems to have forgotten they work for rank and file Californians.
We elect and pay them to solve problems, not play games with our lives. They are throwing out their job security with their failure to act. 

We will remember when it comes time for the election of November 2016. If Southern California’s congressional officials – Republican and Democrat – cannot act on such a fundamental issue, we will vote them out of office so we can receive the representation we deserve and need.