By Alexandra Rosenmann / AlterNet

    Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. (David Becker / AP)

This piece originally ran on AlterNet.

“I’ll tell you something I did not know before I came here,” Bernie Sanders told the crowd at a rally on Sunday in San Joaquin Valley, Calif.

“I was in Flint, Michigan a few months ago and as all of you know, the children in Flint, Michigan were poisoned by the lead in the water they drank. And in Flint, Michigan, people cannot turn on their taps and use the water in their homes. Now, I thought that was Flint, Michigan. I did not know that there were thousands of homes right around here [in the same situation]. That is unbelievable … that people have got to go out and buy bottled water… is that the case?” Sanders asked incredulously. San Joaquin Valley’s water system is contaminated with nitrates from agriculture, and has been linked in studies to spina bifida, cleft palate and missing limbs.

California’s five-year drought caused California governor Jerry Brown to issue a state of emergency in January 2014. In an effort to conserve water, Brown directed Californians,

  • “to reduce water consumption by 20 percent and referring residents and water agencies to the Save Our Water campaign——for practical advice on how to do so;
  • Directing local water suppliers to immediately implement local water shortage contingency plans;
  • Ordering the Board to consider petitions for consolidation of places of use for the State Water Project and Central Valley Project, which could streamline water transfers and exchanges between water users.”

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