California is home to 40 million people, over 3,000 lakes and reservoirs, and over 4,500 water systems with five or more household connections. Tracking exposures and illnesses associated with recreational contact, subsistence fishing, traditional culture uses, and drinking water is uneven across the state. Two types of threats in particular are not well tracked or documented: exposure to harmful freshwater algal blooms (HABs) and associated cyanotoxins, and the safety and monitoring of very small community water systems (VSCWS; fewer than five connections) and private wells potentially impacted by surface water contaminants.
HABs and drinking water contaminants are very difficult and very high cost to eliminate, but exposures to them can be prevented through data collection and public and stakeholder education about the hazards and how to avoid them. This project will include components that are statewide, and others that focus on the largest freshwater lake in California, Clear Lake, a hot spot for HABs and threats to drinking water.
The CalWATCH project will improve California’s capacity to investigate and capture data on threats to drinking and recreational waters, increase the public’s awareness of these threats, increase capacity to report them so that they may be addressed and mitigated, and evaluate the effectiveness of our approach and other existing interventions so that they may be expanded and improved upon in future years.
The proposed approach is four-fold: (1) To increase capacity statewide for reliable and accurate data collection for OH HABS illness reporting and outreach to increase awareness of HABs (Component A CalWATCH Core); (2) To increase outreach and communication around HABs in Lake County – where Clear Lake is located – for recreational freshwater beaches to improve awareness, communication, and illness reporting (Component B3 CalWATCH Beaches); (3) To identify private wells close to Clear Lake and connect with property owners to offer testing and raise awareness of well-water hazards (B1 CalWATCH Wells); and (4) To identify drinking water intakes from Clear Lake used by very small community water systems, offer testing and raise awareness of hazards (B4 CalWATCH VSCWS).
The CalWATCH project is a collaboration between Tracking California, the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the State Water Resources Control Board, the California Department of Public Health and other agencies and stakeholders. We will work together to strengthen environmental health capacity to detect, prevent, and control environmental health hazards through data-driven, evidence-based approaches.
Outcome A.1: Addressed, prevented, and controlled EH hazards
Outcome A.2: Field has more access to evidence on effectiveness of EH interventions
Outcome A.3: Increased efficiency and effectiveness of EH interventions to address EH hazards