This extraordinary year has put a sharp focus on how inequity affects a community’s well-being. The COVID-19 virus has highlighted how interconnected we are, but we are definitely not all “in the same boat” as we navigate these waters. In a time of pandemic, intensifying climate change, and growing awareness of racial inequities, we see clearly that people in vulnerable communities experience worse outcomes in terms of health and well-being, employment, and access to the basic needs of food, water, and housing. We know that these disparate outcomes are underpinned by systemic racism and classism in our cities and their systems of operation—and that includes our water systems.
As anchor institutions in their communities, water utilities can play a significant role in advancing water equity—but they can’t do it alone! Cross-sector collaboration among utilities, community organizations, environmental groups, philanthropy, and other local stakeholders is key to building thriving, equitable water systems and communities. And we can all can learn from and support one another in this work.
To that end, the US Water Alliance is excited to announce the launch of the Water Equity Network. This network builds on our two-year Water Equity Taskforce effort, seven cities came together to build cross-sector teams and create roadmaps for advancing water equity in their communities. These teams focused on the three pillars of water equity outlined in our national briefing paper, An Equitable Water Future:
Ensuring all people have access to clean, safe, affordable water service,
Maximizing the community and economic benefits of water infrastructure investment, and
Fostering community resilience in the face of a changing climate.
The Water Equity Network is a nationwide community of practice where cities can share best practices—including COVID-19 response strategies—in real time, engage in cross-city coaching and mentoring, and advance equitable water management. Network members will have an opportunity to build trusting relationships with diverse local partners to tackle water equity issues, and they’ll engage with other city teams facing similar issues to share ideas and solutions.