Washington, D.C.— Today, a group of 17 advocacy organizations announced that 331,036 people have signed petitions in support of a bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich-13) to address the water quality and affordability problems plaguing many U.S. communities. The WATER Act will distribute up to $35 billion in dedicated funding to community water and sewer systems through the State Revolving Funds, creating up to 1 million new jobs.
Federal funding for U.S. water systems has declined dramatically since its peak in the late 1970s. In 1977, the federal government spent $76.27 a year per person on water services. By 2014 that support had fallen to just $13.68 per person—an 82 percent drop. The WATER Act will reverse the decades-long decline in federal water system funding by creating a dedicated, sustainable source of funding to improve and update water service lines, replace aging, lead-ridden pipes, prevent sewage spills and ensure that every household in the U.S. has reliable, healthy, affordable water service.
“It is profoundly encouraging to see so many Americans speaking up to defend our right to clean water for our basic needs,” said Rep. John Conyers. “In the richest nation in world history, adequate investment in our water infrastructure should not be controversial. I look forward to working closely with those both inside and outside of Congress until we have a modern water infrastructure system that guarantees all Americans access to clean and affordable water.”
“The WATER Act is the most robust, comprehensive funding proposal for addressing our nation’s looming water crisis and fixing our aging water systems,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The EPA estimates we will need $697 billion over the next 20 years to update our drinking water and wastewater systems. The WATER Act is exactly what we need to do this and to restore public confidence in these critical public services. We applaud Rep. Conyers for championing the bill."
Nationwide, over 6 million lead service lines deliver water to millions of people. Replacing them could cost up to $30 billion, and failure to replace lead pipes puts people at risk of lead poisoning. Overall, some 11,200 community water systems have lead service lines, some of which provide water to schools. The bill would create the School Drinking Water Improvement Grant program to provide funding to public primary and secondary schools that wish to test, repair, replace or install the infrastructure necessary for drinking water fountains or bottle filling stations.
"Water infrastructure is a huge environmental justice issue, but instead of fixing our nation's water system, the U.S. government has instead slashed funding for water infrastructure upgrades. That's why we support the WATER Act. We need water systems that fulfill the human right to water, " said Mara Schechter, Campaign Director of Daily Kos.
“We believe that water is a human right because it is necessary for life. No person living in America should need to be concerned about being poisoned by the drinking water from their kitchen faucet. We must ensure that drinking water is safe for everyone, especially our children. The U.S. must update our water infrastructure and ensure that what happened in Flint, Michigan will never happen in another community,” added Andrea Miller, Executive Director of People Demanding Action.
ECC Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Felipe Floresca said: “Every American deserves clean, affordable drinking water as a basic right. As part of our foreign aid program, the United States funds water infrastructure projects around the globe. It is a sad commentary when safe, affordable drinking water is not also guaranteed to every American.”
"The WATER Act is vital to keeping our water sources safe and affordable for all families," said Dr. Gabriela Lemus, President of Progressive Congress Action Fund. "Ongoing efforts to privatize water and the harrowing consequences of disasters such as the lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan make it clear that for us to survive as a species, we must ensure that clean water is available to everyone."
"As federal funding for our water infrastructure has declined, the private water industry has launched an aggressive campaign to profit from our most precious public resource, misrepresenting itself as the answer to the funding shortfall. The WATER Act is the true solution to this crisis, fixing the enormous funding gap and forcing corporations to pay their fair share. Congress must act now to secure the human right to water and protect water as a public good," said Lauren DeRusha, Senior National Campaign Organizer, Public Water Works! campaign at Corporate Accountability International.
"In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis calls on each and every one of us to ‘care for our common home,’" said Franciscan Action Network Executive Director Patrick Carolan. "Water is one of our most precious resources and we must do everything we can to ensure that we all Americans have access to clean drinking water. We cannot allow what happened in Flint to ever happen again, especially to the most poor and vulnerable in our society."
"Citizens of the wealthiest nation in the world should not be subjected to outdated, deteriorated infrastructure that plagues too many communities, especially low-wealth communities and communities of color. From Flint, Michigan to Native American communities in the Southwest and elsewhere, the situation has been absolutely execrable and, quite frankly, antithetical to the entire premise of the 14th Amendment. Infrastructure and water quality in too many communities are akin to an insidious form of slow-violence that has cost people the ability to live in dignity and, in too many instances, the ability to live at all. Environmental Action applauds Rep. Conyers' sagacity and demands expeditious ratification of this bill, which advances Environmental Justice and will deliver quality infrastructure to all the people," said Anthony Rogers-Wright, Policy and Organizing Director of Environmental Action.
“Water infrastructure repairs, water sanitation and affordability have become an unfathomable crisis across Michigan cities,” said Maureen D. Taylor, MSW of the Detroit People's Water Board and Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. “In Detroit, Flint and Highland Park, residents are poisoned on a daily basis by lead-contaminated drinking water. Despite our pleas and a Water Affordability Plan, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department continues its efforts to shut off water at up to 3,000 houses per week. The vast majority of these are at the homes of people too poor to pay for rate increases totaling 120 percent in the last decade, and where babies, senior citizens, chronically ill workers and people with disabilities reside. We desperately need passage of the WATER Act today!”
“Water is a human right,” said Matt Nelson, Executive Director of Present.org. “As a nation, we must stop investing in oil pipes and start fixing water pipes! The WATER Act is critical to putting us on a path toward real relief from poisoned water and neglected infrastructure. We must also elevate the voices of our communities and let our elected leaders know that we will not allow our families and loved ones to be in harm’s way. We are fighting to ensure that human need comes before corporate greed.”
The following organizations were involved in these efforts: Americans for Democratic Action, Corporate Accountability International, Courage Campaign, Daily Kos, Emerald Cities Collaborative, Environmental Action, Food & Water Watch, Franciscan Action Network, Friends of the Earth, People Demanding Action, People's Action, People's Water Board Coalition, Presente.org, Progressive Congress, SierraRise, Water You Fighting For and We the People of Detroit.
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, [email protected]