Eastern Coachella Valley report finds elevated levels of air and water pollution
June 12, 2013
Residents of the Eastern Coachella Valley in Riverside County live every day with elevated environmental hazards in their air and water, according to a new University of California, Davis, study.
These hazards include drinking water with average chemical concentrations far above state and federal recommended levels.
Adjacent to the more urban Western Coachella Valley, which includes the tourist and resort towns of Palm Springs, Palm Desert and La Quinta, most of the eastern valley is impoverished, and lacks safe and affordable housing. Many area residents must commute to neighboring Western Coachella Valley and do not have the economic and political resources to address these environmental risks in their hometowns, researchers said.
"Those who care about rural communities need to understand that there are some places and populations that lack the resources to protect their health and achieve prosperity,” said Jonathan London, lead researcher for the report and director of the UC Davis Center for Regional Change.
“This study provides a blueprint for collaborative action to lift up the rural eastern Coachella Valley as a sustainable and equitable region.”
The report, “Revealing the Invisible Coachella Valley: Putting Cumulative Environmental Vulnerabilities on the Map,” by researchers at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change was released today (Wednesday, June 12).
Researchers worked with local community leaders to identify high-priority issues and gathered the latest available public data for Riverside County to report their findings. They looked at both environmental hazards and a “social vulnerability index,” which includes housing quality and economic conditions, London said.
The Eastern Coachella Valley has much higher concentrations of pollution in its water bodies than the Western Coachella Valley and Riverside County overall, they found. Drinking water wells have average chemical concentrations far above the state and federal Maximum Contaminant Levels for arsenic, chromium 6, perchlorate, and nitrates, researchers said.
In addition, some areas in the Western Coachella Valley, such as La Quinta, have elevated levels of chromium 6. Portions of the western valley also show high degrees of cumulative environmental hazards and social vulnerability. These areas include Desert Hot Springs and parts of Cabazon, Sky Valley, West Garnet and Desert Edge.
Significantly higher levels of pesticides are applied in the Eastern Coachella Valley than the Western Coachella Valley and the rest of Riverside County, adding to pollution levels in air and water, researchers found.
This study was developed with a diverse set of community partners from the Eastern Coachella Valley who will use the report’s information in their efforts to promote sustainable and equitable growth in their region, London said.
This study was commissioned by the California Institute for Rural Studies. Funding was provided by The California Endowment through the foundation’s 10-year Building Healthy Communities initiative.
About the UC Davis Center for Regional Change
The UC Davis Center for Regional Change produces solutions-oriented research to inform the building of healthy, prosperous, sustainable, and equitable regions in California and beyond.
About UC Davis
For more than 100 years, UC Davis has been one place where people are bettering humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the state capital, UC Davis has more than 33,000 students, over 2,500 faculty and more than 21,000 staff, an annual research budget of nearly $750 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges — Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science. It also houses six professional schools — Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.
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