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Water Everywhere but not a Drop to Drink

Efforts By CSU System Aid Homeless Communities in Southern California.

Noah Thatcher

Noah Thatcher

Anthony Karambelas, Staff Reporter

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This past Fall, the CSU’s Water Resources and Policy Initiative (WRPI) received a $1.3 million grant to fund twenty student hands-on internships per year.

These Community Water Internships will help improve water accessibility in Southern California particularly to those more than 8,000 homeless individuals who reside in the Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

Homeless encampments along the river are at constant risk of flooding, yet are isolated from clean water. WRPI Director Boykin Witherspoon believes this fatal combination necessitates community outreach:

“The homeless are a community that needs to be serviced by the same programs as other disadvantaged communities.Access to safe and clean drinking water can help eliminate some of the sanitation issues at encampments and the environmental problems that stem from them.”

Starting this Fall, Community Water Interns have begun mapping communities in need of water-related assistance. After that, they will develop strategies to deliver fresh water.Interns will also assist with other aspects of water management, including the forging of alliances between communities and water stakeholders, researching past solutions to water crises, and construction planning.

The program also connects students with a well of professionals throughout the CSU, all devoted to solving California’s water crisis.

As of now, the WRPI only offers internships to students at Cal State San Bernardino and Fullerton. However, public agencies and 501(c)(3)’s are encouraged to apply for two funded internships related to community involvement with water.

Each undergraduate internship pays $4,500 for 20 hours per week at $12.50/hour. The program is sponsored by the California Department of Water Resources and the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA). Funding is expected to last until 2020.

The Cal State system has also partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to form a separate internship opportunity provided to undergraduates and graduates alike. This separate program targets many of the same goals as the Community Water Internships, but also includes national forests and private working lands in the mix.

This program funds fifty internships per year over a four year period, providing the same pay as SAWPA’s internship opportunity. Unlike SAWPA, however, it is open to any and all CSU campuses, making the application process a more competitive one.

Both the Community Water Internships and USDA internships are part of CSU’s WRPI, comprised of around 250 concerned water experts throughout the CSU. The program has provided a forum for state-wide change since 2008 and continues to pioneer water conservation throughout California.

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Water Everywhere but not a Drop to Drink