World Water Day and Water Equity

Deilia Jackson Darby, US Water Alliance | March 22, 2019

Today, in observance of World Water Day, the US Water Alliance invites you to consider the ways you can take action to ensure equitable water management for everyone in your life, observing this year’s theme of “Leaving No One Behind.”

Think about a kindergartener rushing off to school – does he or she have access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water after naptime? Or the retirees down the block– as water rates increase to support your city’s infrastructure, how can they make ends meet?

Or your coworker who is thrilled to be purchasing and renovating a historic home, but is concerned about the potential for lead in the water from old pipes.

In our journey to create a sustainable water future for all, the US Water Alliance actively uses a water equity framework to advise utilities, community organizations, philanthropy, the private sector, and other stakeholders on creating an equitable water future in communities across the United States.

This framework is defined within An Equitable Water Future: A National Briefing Paper, a two-part collection of data and research which describes the critical challenges facing the water sector and reports on how vulnerable communities are impacted. It also features the promising practices and strategies in three key arenas demonstrating how stakeholders can advance water equity across the country.

In her note marking the occasion of World Water Day, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay states that, “The need for increased international solidarity is especially prominent in certain regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where access to basic services such as water supply and sanitation, remains largely limited.” In our research across the United States, the Alliance has found that basic services can be found lacking or absent in major urban and rural areas in our nation as a result of aging infrastructure, water quality/lead impacts, lack of water infrastructure, and many other challenges facing water equity.

Commemorating World Water Day means that there must be a focus on ensuring that vulnerable communities and communities of color here in America can benefit from safe and healthy water services.

The Alliance believes that utilities and communities – and you – can benefit from engaging and implementing the three pillars of water equity: ensuring that all people have access to clean, safe, and affordable water service; maximizing the community and economic benefits of water infrastructure investment; and, fostering community resilience in the face of a changing climate.

Quietly emerging but promising examples are taking place all over the country to address the need for equitable water management.

The US Water Alliance has convened a group of seven cities from across America as part of a Water Equity Taskforce. This faction of utilities, community organizations, local government, and other stakeholders is a peer exchange and collaborative effort to establish equitable water management practices and policies through development and adoption.

The seven cities – Atlanta, Buffalo, Camden, Cleveland, Louisville, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh – are examining water equity challenges within their respective cities and are committed to leaving no one behind. Each Taskforce team is actively identifying the landscape related to water equity and creating innovative solutions in response.

You can help by spreading and sharing these promising strategies to key stakeholders in your community. Today, take a moment to:

  • Learn all you can about water-related issues, especially equity-related ones, in your community, city, region, and state.
  • Be inspired to tell others – join your neighbor at the school board meeting to discuss safe, clean, and affordable water services at the community primary school. Participate in citizen advisory council meetings at your local water or wastewater provider when rate increases are being discussed. Connect your coworker to housing advocates to determine if there are lead abatement programs that are being offered by local or regional utility authorities.
  • Take action to make a difference. Support those who are or may feel voiceless in water management decisions and make sure that equitable water management policies and practices are being established - and leaving no one behind.

Learn more about the US Water Alliance’s work on water equity, as well as promising examples of water equity happening across the country here.