Community Water Center

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$10,000 Goal

How it all began.

Community Water Center was co-founded by Laurel Firestone and Susana De Anda (pictured below L-R).

In 2004, Laurel Firestone, an attorney, received an Equal Justice Works Fellowship to start the Rural Poverty Water Project at the Delano office of the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment (CRPE). At CRPE, Laurel teamed up with community organizer Susana De Anda.

Early on, De Anda studied water quality reports which indicated residents were being exposed to contaminants such as nitrates and arsenic. She also discovered that the Tulare County General Plan had no real commitment to ensure safe drinking water for 16 local communities which the county deemed to have no “authentic future.” Therefore, the water infrastructure in these farmworker communities was old, dilapidated, and leaking.

De Anda went door-to-door to share her findings and asked residents if they drink their tap water. The answers throughout the region were a resounding, ”No, we don’t drink it because we don’t trust it.”

As the pair organized community by community, it was clear that the issue was widespread and that residents lacked information on water quality - and most importantly - on what they could do about it.

Together, Firestone and De Anda successfully helped many individual communities, including Ducor, Tooleville, Tonyville, and Cutler-Orosi, obtain safe, clean, and affordable drinking water. Firestone and De Anda worked to empower residents to force their water boards to clean up residential water that was black and smelled of sewage, secure funding to drill new wells, issue compliance orders requiring water providers to deliver potable water to residents year-round, force the repeal of unconstitutional ordinances that discriminated against extended families, and push for language-access policies to allow Spanish-speaking residents to effectively participate in board meetings.

Over time it became clear that the problems faced by these communities belonged to a landscape of unsafe and unjust water conditions that extends throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Due to the scale and complexity of this situation, there was a critical need for an organization dedicated full-time to working with communities on their water challenges. In September 2006, the Rural Poverty Water Project spun off from CRPE and became the Community Water Center, an independent non-profit entity.

Today, the Community Water Center continues to work towards realizing the Human Right to Water for all communities in California through education, organizing, and advocacy. Our main office is located at the heart of San Joaquin Valley in Visalia, and in 2012 we opened a second office in Sacramento in order to bring our advocacy to the statewide level. In 2018, we expanded our on the ground organizing by opening a third office in Watsonville.

See more on CWC’s impact here.

Giving Activity


The Community Water Center acts as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy in California.


Community Water Center relies on donor support to ensure we can remain flexible as needs arise that aren't covered by other funding sources. For example, last summer the community of East Orosi (pop. 600) lost access to water completely in 103 degree heat when the pump on their only working well stopped working. We were able to mobilize an emergency response on the ground to check on residents, help distribute bottled water and inform the media. Your donations make this type of response quick and effective! Help us make sure all Californians have access to safe and affordable drinking water.

Equity Statement

We believe clean water is a human right, not a privilege.

Organization Data


Organization name

Community Water Center

Tax id (EIN)


Mission Category


Operating Budget

$1,000,001-$5 million

Organization Need

Funding: Unrestricted

Demographics Served

Hispanic/Latino/Latina/Latinx, Low-income individuals/families, Native Americans/Indigenous Groups

BIPOC Leadership

Executive Director/CEO

Local Counties Served



222 N Garden st. Suite 130
Visalia, CA 93291

Service areas


Tulare County, CA, US

Monterey County, CA, US

Sacramento, CA, US



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