June 6, 2017

Today, the US Water Alliance released the most comprehensive briefing paper to date on the connections between water management and vulnerable communities living in America.

Americans often assume that only developing regions in Africa or Southeast Asia struggle with providing clean, reliable drinking water. The high-quality water systems built for most communities in Americawhich was a monumental engineering and public health achievementobscures that fact that people in America still face water challenges daily.

Water challenges are often considered in the context of failing infrastructure or environmental pollution. An Equitable Water Future offers a robust analysis of the often-overlooked human dimension of water management, with a focus on how water can expand opportunity for our nation’s most vulnerable people.

The report demonstrates how water challenges affect affordability, environmental and social justice, economic development, health, safety, and more. These challenges are often felt more acutely by disadvantaged communities, whether by geographic, economic, or racial status. The paper presents a framework that can move the nation forward, focused on three pillars of equitable water management:

  1. Ensure all people have access to clean, safe, affordable water service
  2. Maximize the community and economic benefits of water infrastructure investment
  3. Foster community resilience in the face of a changing climate.

Kevin Shafer, Board Chair of the US Water Alliance and Executive Director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District said, “The tragedy in Flint, Michigan showed the nation the devastating impact on public health and community well-being when we don’t manage our water systems in a responsible and equitable way. We cannot rely on the old ways of doing things, especially when these approaches have left disadvantaged populations behind. An Equitable Water Future is a blueprint for water leaders across the country to advance inclusion and equity through water management.”

Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome, Senior Program Officer at the Kresge Foundation said: “An Equitable Water Future illustrates that we can rebuild our systems in a manner that leaves communities more resilient and equitable. There is incredible potential to harness water as an instrument for positive change—and this report presents a framework for planners and policymakers to do just that. Climate change, population and economic shifts, and aging infrastructure continue to stress our water systems. Now is the time for a new generation of investments that factor in climate mitigation, adaptation, and foster benefits for low-income communities.”

Radhika Fox, US Water Alliance CEO said, “Water is essential to prosperity and progress. The sad reality is that water challenges disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in America. Families need water to live. Communities need it to thrive. The key takeaway of our new report is that there are innovative solutions, in practice, all over the country. Now is the time for all of us to work in partnership to support, scale, and sustain the promising practices that are catalogued in this report. Together we can build stronger communities and a more equitable America.”

More than 100 real world examples of effective programs and policies are covered in the report. The US Water Alliance thanks the more than 100 contributors who lent time, talent, and expertise to the paper.