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Study: water quality suffers during California's ongoing drought

Flickr member HereStanding

California's drought is not only affecting the quantity of drinking water available, but also the quality.

The U.S. Geological Survey says groundwater supplies in California are becoming increasingly contaminated with trace elements including arsenic and uranium.

An estimated two-thirds of our drinking water came from groundwater supplies last year, up from just one third before the drought started, according to a University of California Davis study.

The Central Coast shows mid-level contamination compared with the rest of the state. The Central Valley shows the highest levels of these elements.

One problem affecting Santa Barbara County groundwater wasn't included in the report.

The Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District estimates its supply has been cut in half as contamination from Chromium-6 shuts down wells.

Chromium-6 is a naturally occurring metal that exists in rocks and soil. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that long term exposure to Chromium-6 can lead to allergic dermatitis, and a report on the carcinogenic properties of the element is still pending.

The district says a combination of tighter regulation and dropping groundwater levels is making for a tough summer.

New state regulations are now ten times stricter on the allowable amount of Chromium-6 in drinking water than federal guidelines.