Access to clean water should be a right — not a privilege — but many low-income and BIPOC neighborhoods nationwide are unfortunately swindled out of safe drinking water, suffer from leaky lead pipes, and grapple with raw sewage overflow on a regular basis. Rundown infrastructures aren't replaced in a timely manner, and politicians cut corners financially, leaving marginalized communities without the same rights to safe drinking water as other whiter and wealthier neighborhoods.
That's why lawmakers are currently working to implement the Water Act. Organizations, environmental justice advocates, and democratic lawmakers alike are currently putting pressure on Biden to pass a new bill that would grant many cities across the nation clean water, by replacing old infrastructures in communities that need it.
What is the Water Act?
On Thursday, Feb. 25, Senator Bernie Sanders, congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, and congressman Ro Khanna will propose The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (Water) Act to congress, according to The Guardian. Over the next 20 years, it will invest thousands of dollars into replacing old infrastructures and addressing unequal access to clean and sanitary water, alongside Biden's $2 trillion Build Back Better plan, which will hopefully highlight the ongoing water crisis.
The bill is currently being supported by upwards of 70 Democratic lawmakers, as well as 500 advocates and organizations nationwide. Local utilities have been required to fund water systems over the last few decades, as federal funding has plummeted by almost 80 percent since 1977. People of color and low-income families have been disproportionately affected by these issues, with a massive funding gap — though $35 billion should be just enough to obey safety standards.
“It’s clear we have a water crisis in every corner of the United States, and if we don’t act soon it will be a disaster,” said Lawrence, as per The Guardian.
“What happened in Texas and Flint, Michigan, and so many other places shows us what happens when we don’t take care of our water infrastructure. I want to scream from the rooftop and shake America awake: safe, clean affordable water is necessary to live – without it you will die.”
Hindering access to clean water is racial injustice.
While federal funding for clean water has plummeted, marginalized communities in particular aren't given access to clean water because of racial injustice. Flint, Mich., a largely BIPOC and low-income midwestern city, has been without clean drinking water for years, allegedly due to government officials, such as former governor, Rick Snyder, switching the city's water supply to cut costs. Years later, he is finally expected to face criminal charges.
Centreville, Ill. is another BIPOC community that's faced relentless racial injustices regarding sanitation — the city is overflowing with raw sewage, because of outdated pumps, and because the government has refused to listen to local officials requesting for a citywide cleanup. They have also been without access to clean drinking water, and are required to rely on water donations from St. Louis, which is a 20 minute drive away.
“It is beyond belief that in 2021 American kids are being poisoned by tap water … Not only do we allow corporations to pollute our waterways, but the government has failed to keep up with critically needed improvements to our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure,” said Sanders, as per The Guardian.
Hopefully the new water bill will be passed, to ultimately fix the racially-charged clean water disparity, that has far too long continued flowing through the U.S.