Water Crisis Compounds Misery in Texas

Historic underinvestment in water systems need a national fix


Clean Water

For Immediate Release

The deep freeze that plunged Texas into an energy crisis has caused a wave of water shortages and infrastructure breakdowns that are all shedding light on a nationwide problem.

Millions of people in Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi are being advised to boil their water, while shortages are being reported across Texas, including at hospitals. 

Like the power problems plaguing Texas, the water crisis has been caused by decades of austerity with slashed federal water funding, deliberate decisions by policymakers to ignore the climate crisis, and long-term failures to invest in climate resilient infrastructure.

Nationally, the scope of our water problem is immense:

  • Every year, there are 240,000 water main breaks, wasting more than 2 trillion gallons of drinking water, while billions of gallons of untreated wastewater spill into waterways.
  • In total, our drinking water and wastewater systems need at least $744 billion over the next 20 years, or more than $35 billion a year.
  • Since peaking in 1977, federal funding for water infrastructure has been cut by 77 percent in real dollars (through 2017).
  • Investing in water infrastructure stimulates the economy. According to the Clean Water Council, every $1 billion in water infrastructure investment creates an estimated 20,003 to 26,669 jobs and can have far-reaching economic benefits, tripling in size with total demand for goods and services reaching an estimated $2.87 to $3.46 billion.

Shortly, Reps. Brenda Lawrence and Ro Khanna will reintroduce the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act, the leading water infrastructure bill in Congress, which was co-sponsored by 87 members last year. The WATER Act would provide $35 billion a year to improve drinking water and wastewater systems, create a dedicated trust fund by rolling back some of the Trump administration’s corporate tax cuts, and create nearly one million jobs across the economy.

According to Food & Water Watch Public Water for All Campaign Director Mary Grant: 

“Decades of failure to invest in our water infrastructure and a deliberate decision to ignore climate science have left millions of people across the South without access to safe water. This intolerable situation is not the result of a natural disaster; it is the result of years of policy decisions rooted in austerity and greed. This crisis, like others we have seen with the human-made crises in Flint and Martin County, Kentucky, or the climate-fueled devastation of water supplies in Texas and Puerto Rico, shows clearly why we need massive federal investment in our public water infrastructure. Congress must pass the WATER Act to invest in communities, promote climate resilience, and ensure public water for all.”

Mary Grant is the Public Water For All Campaign Director at Food & Water Watch. Mary has authored numerous reports exposing the dangers of water privatization and the need for public investment in water infrastructure. Her original research exposed the scandal of Flint water users paying the highest rates in the country during the height of the city’s water crisis, and her research has been essential to the efforts in dozens of communities across the country to stop water privatization.