Water systems around the United States are increasingly falling upon hard times. Some water lines were built over a century ago, and many systems have old lead and cast iron pipes that need to be replaced to ensure that Americans have access to safe public drinking water. In the coming weeks, we will be releasing our latest animation that explores innovative solutions cities around the U.S. are adopting to tackle our country’s water challenges — without selling out to corporations vying to take control.
According to an investigation by News21, as many as 63 million people across the United States were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade.1 One of the reasons things have gotten to this point is because federal funding for our water infrastructure has declined 82 percent since its peak on a per capita basis. In 1977, the federal government spent $76.27 per person (in 2014 dollars) on our water services; by 2014 that support had fallen to $13.68 per person.2
This lack of federal investment has strained city and state governments as they are forced to cover more and more of the maintenance and repair costs needed to keep water and sewer systems up and running. Often, those costs amount to more than cities can afford, making their systems vulnerable to private water corporations that present themselves as the solution. When water systems are privatized — the act of taking a public service or resource and putting it under private, corporate control — corporate leadership shifts their priority from providing access to safe, clean, affordable drinking water to increasing the corporation’s profit. For customers, that means higher rates, restricted access, and poorer overall service and quality.3
The good news is that a solution has been proposed that can improve our water systems and help ensure that they are not taken over by private corporations. The WATER Act is the most comprehensive approach to improving our water systems and helping ensure that every person has access to safe and clean water in the United States.
This legislation is being sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) in the Senate and Representatives Brenda Lawrence (MI) and Ro Khanna (CA) in the House. It will provide the major federal investment we need in our public water infrastructure to renovate our nation’s old and lead-ridden water pipes, help towns that are affected by water contamination, stop sewage overflows, and avert a looming water affordability crisis. Here’s how the WATER Act will deliver water justice to the millions of people who lack access to safe water, while creating nearly a million jobs:
✓ Provide billions of dollars in federal investment to repair America’s aging water infrastructure
✓ Create a trust fund to support public water, insulating this critical infrastructure from political appropriation fights
✓ Help small, rural, and indigenous communities to improve their water and wastewater infrastructure
✓ Address the contamination of water systems by persistent toxins like PFAs, PFOs, and PFOAs
✓ Replace all lead piping in public schools, and help homeowners replace lead service lines on their property
✓ Subsidize access to clean water for disadvantaged communities
Learn more about the WATER Act with this fact sheet by our partners at Food & Water Watch. Support the WATER Act by calling your representatives today!