Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this


By Miriam Raftery

July 8, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--As water supplies grow scarcer in California’s fourth year of drought, residents in impoverished rural towns are facing a new threat.  Groundwater pumped to record low levels means higher concentrations of arsenic are being found in drinking water in many areas.

The Washington Post reports  that some communities are having to truck in water or install filters to screen out toxic levels of arsenic.  Arsenic is naturally occurring, but in high levels it can cause cancer, birth defects, and nervous system disorders. 

In some places, the problem is even worse. Tulare County in the San Joaquin Valley is a “land without water, a real-life example of a future many Californians fear as scientists warn of a possible decades-long mega-drought.

Arsenic has been turning up in drinking water in some East County communities, such as Descansco, though whether that’s due to drought or agricultural run-off is unclear.

Fear of running out of water is also sparking contention at some rural water meetings locally. At a shareholders meeting for the Pine Valley Mutual Water Company, shareholders pushed the board to agree to send out ballots and give all shareholders a vote on whether to rescind water sales to Rough Acres in Boulevard. 

Rough Acres Ranch formed a water agency that could supply water for a massive solar project, among other things.  Pine Valley’s board voted to sell up to 5 million gallons to Rough Acre in Boulevard, but some shareholders say they want Pine Valley’s water kept in Pine Valley to assure that residents will have ample water in these drought-stricken times.


Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.


toxic water hurting poor in SD County?

The Department of Environmental Health (DEH) enhances San Diegans' quality of life by protecting public health and safeguarding environmental quality, educating the public to increase environmental awareness, and implementing and enforcing local, state, and federal environmental laws. DEH regulates the following: retail food safety; public housing; public swimming pools; small drinking water systems; mobile-home parks; onsite wastewater systems; recreational water; aboveground and underground storage tanks and cleanup oversight; and medical and hazardous materials and waste. . .from