By Radhika Fox, CEO, US Water Alliance

October 10, 2018

If you’re like the vast majority of Americans, you’ve probably never had to imagine a day without water. We take water, and our daily tasks and conveniences made by possible by water, for granted. A cup of coffee, a shower, the toilet, a load of laundry, a cold beer. None would be possible without water.
Water is easy to take it for granted and devastating to live without. Hurricane Florence is a tragic irony; we can see images of water flooding neighborhoods, water cresting over banks, turning highways into rivers, and that same flood water cripples the local infrastructure, depriving people of the clean water they need to survive. Beyond natural disasters like Florence that temporarily knock out water service, going a day without water is actually a reality for many Americans across the country who are underserved by aging, damaged, or a lack of water infrastructure.
The list of challenges facing our water systems is long and daunting: severe weather events that stress systems, drought in the west, lead service lines, toxic algae blooms that poison drinking water, sewage overflows polluting rivers, aging infrastructure that is well past its intended life. Water mains break somewhere in America every two minutes, wasting unimaginable numbers of gallons of treated drinking water.
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan illustrated for the country how neglecting water infrastructure can be devastating to the public’s health. Like other issues of equity, vulnerable communities often lack access to clean water and their neighborhoods are not prioritized for repairs.
It is time to face this water infrastructure problem head on. That is why today is Imagine a Day Without Water, a national day of education and awareness to make sure people understand the challenges facing our national water infrastructure and raise their voices to demand change.
The Value of Water Campaign conducted public polling to gauge Americans’ opinions on national water infrastructure earlier this year. The results were abundantly clear. Seventy-eight percent of Americans believe that the President and Congress should develop a plan to rebuild our water infrastructure systems. Support for increasing federal investment to rebuild our water infrastructure is a resounding 88 percent.
One of the most telling findings was after being told that they would bear some of the costs for an overhaul of our systems: 75 percent are willing to pay a modest increase to improve water services. It is nearly unprecedented in this divided time to have nearly unanimous support for an issue.
Clean, accessible water is one of those issues that isn’t trapped by political identity. When polled, the majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all believed that investing in water infrastructure was “extremely or very important.” We make take water infrastructure service for granted, but if you have to really imagine a day without water – or live a day without water – the importance of reliable water infrastructure will be stark.
Today, October 10th, is the fourth annual Imagine a Day Without Water. Hundreds of groups will get involved, ranging from water utilities to aquariums, car washes to schools, coffee shops to City Halls. But the work of raising awareness about our water infrastructure doesn’t end after October 10th, because less than a month from now we have a chance on November 6th to decide what we are going to do as a country to address our water infrastructure challenges.
Thousands of elected officials will be on the ballot across the country this year, and they will run on any number of issues. But we know prioritizing water infrastructure has incredible bipartisan support from the public. As constituents, we can push candidates and the people already in office to step up. Imagine a Day Without Water is a great opportunity to ask candidates in your area what they are going to do to fix our water infrastructure crisis. Go to candidate forums and ask them about water. Tell them this issue has broad support, but we need elected officials with the courage to act.
No one should ever have to imagine a day—or live a day—without water, but that is our reality right now. It is time to demand action from the people who represent us, so we can have clean, safe, reliable water service every day, no questions asked. Then, we can imagine a day where these challenges are in the past.