The US Water Alliance has released a new report in partnership with DigDeep and Michigan State University focusing on water access, titled Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan.
Over the last three years, the US Water Alliance has been working to understand how water systems affect vulnerable people and to advance more equitable water management practices. The organization developed a national framework and highlighted promising practices. Building on that framework, the Alliance also launched the Seven-City Water Equity Taskforce, an initiative that brings together utilities and community leaders to collaboratively respond to challenges like aging infrastructure, affordability, workforce inclusion, and water quality.
“When we developed our water equity framework, one number stuck in my mind: that two million people in the United States still lack basic access to running water and indoor plumbing,” said Radhika Fox, CEO of the US Water Alliance. “As someone who spent my early childhood in rural India, it was unthinkable to me that in America, a nation of such abundance, so many people are still living without the basics.”
In response this challenge, the US Water Alliance has produced a comprehensive report on the water access challenge, using data analysis and on-the-ground research to understand the numbers and accelerate promising solutions. The Alliance teamed with DigDeep, an organization that won the US Water Prize in 2018 for their success in bringing water service to hundreds of families on the Navajo Nation, and with researchers at Michigan State University.
“And, as with everything we do, we brought in a circle of partners,” said Fox. “We formed a National Advisory Council of leaders from sectors including water, equity, technology, and community development to guide our work.”
Through the research, the Alliance found that more than 2 million Americans live without access to running water, indoor plumbing, and safe sanitation.
“Federal data doesn’t accurately measure the challenge, and data collection has been cut back in recent years. We found that communities of color are more likely to lack water access than white communities, and that the disparity is particularly extreme for Native Americans. Poverty is also a key barrier to water access,” said Fox.
These challenges are also the result of historical and geographical factors that have left entire communities without adequate services. In response, the Alliance created a four-part action plan to solve this challenge:
- Reimagine the Solution: Define water access as a crisis, provide interim solutions, and develop alternative to traditional infrastructure
- Deploy Resources Strategically: Expand federal funding, create funding options for private wells and septic systems, and build a domestic WASH sector
- Build Community Power: Use data to bring visibility to the challenge, support community-led water governance, and build relationships between impacted communities
- Foster Creative Collaboration: Support system consolidation, leverage private sector expertise, and design multi-benefit solutions
The US Water Alliance said it encourages feedback on the role it can play in helping to close the water access gap.