During Labor Day weekend in 2022, Californians experienced an extreme heatwave that led some cities to record record-high temperatures. Despite any forecast, Merced was still unprepared due to a lack of accessible drinking water to help offset the heat.
California has underestimated the number of people who are victims of extreme heat and continue to struggle accounting for heat-related illnesses and deaths, according to the Los Angeles Times.
This is despite the fact that California Assembly Bill 685, which was passed in 2012 has declared that “every person in the state has a right to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water.”
According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, “in 2019, Gov. Newsom signed SB 200 to provide funding to achieve the goal to ‘provide safe drinking water in every California community, for every Californian.’”
Though the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s water accessibility component score for the City of Merced is a 0 on a scale of 0 to 4 where 0 is best, there is no data recorded for water affordability.
This combination of accessibility and affordability is something members of the Merced community have cited as a problem and some suggest a potential solution of having more water stations around the city.
Marvin, 64 and a resident of Merced, said that having water stations would be helpful.
“It’d be a fresh and understanding help for everyone,” Marvin said.
Marvin said he sometimes goes a week without drinking water and travels for it on his bike.
“I travel every day,” he said. “I travel more than 50-60 miles a day.”
Yisenia, 18, lives at the University of California, Merced campus. She and Gabriel, 19, noted that they usually have to go to the nearest grocery store if they want to find clean water. Yisenia pointed out the lack of affordable water in Merced.
“It would be very helpful [to have a water station] because we’d have resources close to us and we wouldn’t have to pay for it,” Yisenia said.
Stephanie, 26, said that having water stations around Merced would be helpful, as well.
“A lot of people walk their dogs and there’s a park right next to where I live,” Stephanie said. “I think it would be really convenient for people that are out working or doing yard work around, or just walking their pets.”
Edward, 55, said he doesn’t drink a lot of water and might go half a day or longer without it. Sometimes he has to go across town just to be able to get clean water.
“It’d be excellent,” Edward said of having more water stations in town.
With a wide range of people advocating for community water stations, for numerous reasons, there is a clear need for it for the benefit of all.
“A lot of people running around need some water,” Gabriel said.