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Workshop Mobilizes Community to Address Dirty Tap Water in Watts

Brown, rust colored, dirty or murky – these are not description one tends to associate with tap water. But like so many environmental justice communities, this is what a majority of residents in Watts experience when they turn on their taps. Since 2016, Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA has worked alongside Harbor UCLA, the LA Human Right to Housing Collective (LAHRHC), the LA Community Action Network (LACAN) and the Legal Aid Foundation of LA (LAFLA) to conduct an assessment of community conditions affecting the health of Watts residents. One preliminary finding is that 70% of respondents notice water from their taps that is brown, rust colored, dirty or murky. Additionally, only 12% of respondents feel safe drinking the water from their taps.1 Furthermore, communities such as Watts face additional challenges such as drinking water affordability and outdated systems and infrastructures.

On Saturday, May 20th, Watts residents joined advocates2 for a workshop to learn how to address this reality. The goals of the workshop were to 1) educate the community about tap water quality, 2) understand what constitutes poor water quality and 3) learn how to collectively address the issue through education, mobilization, and agency collaboration.

The day started with a comprehensive tutorial on how to read and interpret the Community’s Consumer Confidence (CPR) – the annual report produced by the regional agency responsible for distributing clean water, in this case, the LA Department of Water and Power. Residents were trained to understand the sampling data presented in the report, and to identify if the community’s water has particular contaminants that exceed either the legal and/or health protective limit for that contaminant. PSR-LA physicians led small group discussions on the health impacts associated with exposure to poor water quality.

The workshop culminated with a discussion on concrete ways we can address and resolve the water quality conditions in Watts. The workshop attendees identified the following as potential solutions:

For more information about PSR-LA’s work around water, reach out to Monika Shankar at mshankar@psr-la.org.



1. Preliminary results from the Jordan Downs Health Needs Assessment, February 2017 – preliminary findings to be released in June 2016.

2. Participating organizations included PSR-LA, LACAN, LAHRHC, LAFLA, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, the Community Water Center and the Watts Labor Community Action Committee.