Fresno, CA

Why Drinking Water is not Drinkable

Mark-John Clifford
Fresno Dirty WaterABC 30 News

There's a song from the '60s by the Standells that relates to today's title and post. Dirty Water!
The "Dirty Water" is the notoriously polluted Charles River in Boston, which had become a receptacle for industrial waste. But the song comes off as a celebration of Boston, not an ecological warning:
I love that dirty water
Boston (FRESNO), you're my homeYeah, down by the river
Down by the banks of the river Charles (San Juaquin...doesn't fit as well)
(Aw, that's what's happenin' baby)
That's where you'll find me
Along with lovers, muggers, and thieves
(Aw, but they're cool people)
Well I love that dirty water
Oh, Boston, you're my home (just substitue FRESNO for Boston)
(Oh, you're the number one place)

Above information and lyrics courtesy of Songfacts (except for where I added a little local flare)

Where were you in 2015? If you lived in Fresno, you were probably dealing with the fact that was if you relied on city water and, in some cases, personal wells for bathing, drinking, and other uses, it was polluted.

In 2001 Fresno water received a poor grade for water quality and compliance. In 2003 Fresno was awarded a grade of F by the Natural Resources Defense Council for protection of water. This grade was based on the fact that the drinking water supplied to Fresno residents contained 31 pollutants from valley sources.

Some of the sources that contributed to water pollution are listed below.

Sewage and Wastewater

After usage, water becomes wastewater and returns to the ecosystem without being treated.

This wastewater can include water from toilets, sinks, showers, and commercial, industrial, or agricultural uses. It can also come from rainwater that washed off grease, oil, road salt, and chemicals on the ground that included fertilizers in the waterways of Fresno.


Our valley is an agricultural mecca, as we know. You can drive a few minutes out of the center of Fresno and be in the smack dab middle of farmland without realizing it.

Just think of the chemicals that are used to help grow the veggies we in Fresno and the rest of the world consume. When it rains, those chemicals have to go someplace, and that someplace is into the ground and then into the groundwater, which feeds our drinking supply.

Also, you need to consider animal farming that goes on in the valley and all the fertilizers used in growing crops, and the animal waste and insecticides that get washed away by rainwater.

The pollutants in agricultural waters usually contain high amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen which aids in algae growth. This alga produces toxins that kill fish as well as harming human beings.

Plastics and Garbage

How can we forget these two primary pollutants? There isn't a day that goes by where we don't hear about plastics in our waterways, in our national parks, on our beaches, and just around our homes.

It all leads to polluting water that isn't just detrimental to us but also detrimental to wildlife and marine life.

Plastic breaks down over time into microplastics that are consumed by marine life and wildlife.

Garbage thrown into waterways and on land could be confused as food by wildlife and marine life and die.
Irrigation CanalWater Safety Council of Fresno

Air Pollution

Air pollution can make its way to rivers, lakes, and streams that affect our water and that of wildlife, marine life, agricultural and farming needs.

Nitrogen is one such pollutant. As much as nitrogen if good for plant growth, too much of a good thing isn't good. Too much nitrogen can cause algae to grow, and we already know what that can produce.

Algal bloom or Red Tide happens when there is too much algae in the water, which then clogs up waterways, upsetting the ecosystem balance.

Some of these blooms contain toxins that are deadly to humans and animals alike.

Sulfur Dioxide & Nitrogen Oxides

As fossil fuels are burned, they release sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere, which in turn come down during a rainstorm and produce what we now call acid rain.

The pollutants can enter our groundwater either through rain or melted snow that produces enough acidity in our water to kill off fish, wildlife and pollute our drinking water, whether via the city or our personal wells.


Even though mercury occurs in our environment naturally, we as people contribute to pollution by adding more mercury to our environment by burning waste and fossil fuels like charcoal.

When mercury dissolves in water, bacteria in the water transform it into methyl mercury, poisonous to fish. Shellfish and fish absorb it into their bodies which, when eaten by wildlife and humans, is then absorbed into their bodies.

All of this is unhealthy to everyone, as we now know.

What Can We Do?

There isn't one correct answer. It takes multiple tasks for years to help reduce not only water pollution but air pollution also.

If we only focus on one, the other will take its place.

Turning off the lights, walking, riding a bike, and using public transportation when you can instead of driving is a start.

Reducing our use of fossil fuels will make the most significant impact on water and air pollution, but is that possible?

It's up to us at this point to raise awareness and keep our local and national politicians and experts aware that we care. We want something done now so that our future and the future of our kids and grandkids is a healthy one in Fresno.

Information for this post was provided by:

Water Safety Council of Fresno

Department of Public Utilties

Fresno Water System Department

Kings Basin Water Authority

Air Pollution Control-Valley Air District

American Lung Assicoiation

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Patti, my wife, and I write about life here in Fresno, California, and the Central Valley. We especially enjoy writing reviews about restaurants we've dined at, along with the food that is served. From time to time, we also write about and share recipes that we are fond of and hope you'll try them and let us know your thoughts. We are not traditional food critics. We don't have to worry about restaurants making unique dishes for us. We're just the average customer going in to dine, and then we write reviews.

Fresno, CA

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