The water crisis we’ve been talking about in the United States hasn’t gone away, and unless Congress passes the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability Act (the WATER Act, H.R. 1673), it doesn’t look like it’s going to be resolved anytime soon.
Just to hit the basics first — when we say water crisis, we’re not exaggerating.
The water woes in Flint, Michigan garnered national attention, but lead poisoning from contaminated water pipes, mass water shutoffs and deteriorating water infrastructure are devastating communities across the nation. And these tragedies are happening at appalling rates.
How Did We Let This Happen?
The act stated, “it is the national policy that Federal financial assistance be provided to construct publicly owned waste treatment works,” and was an attempt at restoring and maintaining our nation’s waterways. It established the Construction Grants Program, which provided the funding that allowed many cities to build their wastewater treatment systems.
So What Does This Mean For You?
In many communities it’s panned out like this: the cost of updating and improving water systems drives up water rates to levels that many families simply can’t afford.
In Baltimore, water rates are often high enough that people can’t afford them, so the city responds by shutting off water and putting their homes up for tax lien sale. People can’t afford water, so the government takes their homes. This is not a joke.
And this is happening across the country — the consequences of unaffordable water and sewer bills are severe. It can range from loss of running water, losing homes, to even having children taken away from their homes (lack of running tap water can be considered neglect).
And, of course, systemic racism is at play. The heart-wrenching attacks that come with being overcharged for water -- a basic human right --are happening in communities of color and low-income households at a much higher rate than anywhere else.
What Do We Do Next?
It's been 45 years since Congress passed the Clean Water Act, and the systems built under it now need major improvements. The WATER Act is the current-day legislative response.
Our sewer mains are aging and getting clogged, tap water in some communities is often still contaminated, and we need our treatment plants to do more to protect public health.
The WATER Act will simultaneously deliver water justice to the millions of people in the United States who lack access to safe water, while creating nearly a million jobs.
So let’s work together to get it passed!
Trump is obviously not interested in ramping up water infrastructure funding. His $1 trillion vision for infrastructure was a corporate handout. In his dream world, his buddies on Wall Street would have complete control over all of our essential resources.
But we know safe water is a bipartisan issue. We can push Congress to renew its commitment to passing the WATER Act to reinvest in water infrastructure, reject water privatization and keep the power in the hands of the people. With 40 co-sponsors on board, we’re moving forward to pass the most comprehensive piece of water legislation to date. Thanks for working with us to get this passed!