Discharges from irrigated agriculture are the largest source of pollutionin California’s Central Valley. Water diversions for irrigated agriculture pose significant environmental challenges by diminishing instream flows and depleting aquifers throughout the state. Agricultural operations also pose a significant threat to water quality when nitrates, pesticides, sediment, pathogens, heavy metals, and salts run off fields into surface and groundwater. Farming right up to the riverbank by intensive farming operations has also led to the destruction of natural riparian zones through increased erosion, nutrient and sediment pollution, higher water temperatures, and degraded aquatic habitats.
Matheny Tract residents first received notice in 2006 that their drinking water, provided to them by Pratt Mutual Water Company, was contaminated with an excessive amount of arsenic. Pratt Mutual’s distribution system was deteriorating, and residents were clearly paying the price. Matheny Tract is a small, unincorporated community made up of 1,200 residents. The majority of the population is Latino, and almost a third of the residents live below the federal poverty line. Since the community is unincorporated, residents can’t vote in city elections and don’t have access to municipal services.