Building Community Capacity with Photovoice (BCCP) is a tested project, in which residents of disadvantaged communities in the Santa Ana River Watershed employ participatory research, specifically the photovoice methodology, to document, understand, educate, communicate, advocate, and ultimately build community capacity to ensure water quality for all. Photovoice uses photography to document storm water, point, and non point pollution within disadvantaged communities.
BCCP is a response to Orange County Environmental Justice Education Fund’s (OCEJEF) 2016-2017 door- to-door multilingual survey of Orange County (OC) residents living within CalEPA Disadvantaged Communities. Of 4,163 respondents, 41.3% rated water quality “below average or bad.” The survey also revealed a prevailing mistrust of public water sources and water management systems. Moreover, residents also described a myriad of socio-economic issues that impacted their capacity to engage with local governments to find solutions and to create opportunities for building trust. Additionally, studies of internal reconnaissance of water pollution show that the OC cities with the largest populations of people of color have disproportionately high numbers of toxic industries compared to other Orange County cities(i). The findings from the survey led OCEJEF to implement a water-related leadership development and education program, Communities Organizing for Better Water (COBW) in 2018.
COBW increases knowledge of water systems and government transparency by documenting water quality issues, building resident leadership, and developing an advocacy campaign. With support from the Rose Foundation, OCEJF will expand BCCP in Anaheim, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Orange, and Santa Ana with the ultimate goal of empowering community members to hold public and private systems accountable to high water quality as well as be engaged and a part of creating systems and policies that support this goal.