Legislation to Promote Water for Poor

Sept. 1, 2010
The measure is designed to put water at the forefront of American's development Priorities.

by James Laughlin, Managing Editor

The measure is designed to put water at the forefront of American's development Priorities

In a time when very little legislation is making its way through either US House, the Water for the World Act passed the Senate in late September and was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The bi-partisan measure introduced by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), is designed to place water in the forefront of America's development priorities, seeking to reach 100 million people around the world with sustainable access to clean water and sanitation over the next six years.

"Access to safe drinking water is a right that everyone in the world ought to enjoy but too few are able to realize," Durbin said. "Water access is no longer simply a global health and development issue; it is a mortal and long-term threat that is increasingly becoming a national security issue. The United States needs to do much more to ensure that global water access is protected and expanded."

According to a variety of studies, more than a billion people around the world lack access to clean, safe water and more than two billion people lack access to basic sanitation. Industrial expansion, climate change and population growth will continue to put pressure on global water supplies, particularly in developing nations.

Water supply and water quality issues can contribute to regional tensions, global health, child and maternal mortality, and slow economic growth.

The Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 made access to safe water and sanitation for developing countries a specific policy objective of the United States Foreign Assistance Program. The Act was named after the late Paul Simon, who more than a decade ago wrote the book Tapped Out, which warned of the world's looming clean water crisis.

The Act has already made a difference in the world: last year alone the U.S. helped provide nearly 2 million people with first time access to an improved source of drinking water and more than 1.5 million people to improved sanitation.

To build on the progress achieved through the Water for the Poor Act, the Water for the World Act targets underdeveloped countries with focused initiatives to improve access to clean water and sanitation. Its goal is to foster global cooperation on research and technology development, including regional partnerships among experts on clean water. The act would provide technical assistance and capacity-building to develop expertise within countries facing water and sanitation challenges and also provides seed money for the deployment of clean water and sanitation technologies.

A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Donald Payne (D-NJ). When or if a combined bill would reach the president's desk is unclear, given this an election year where any action by Congress is unlikely.

The Water for the World Act is one way the U.S. could contribute to the Millennium Development Goal on water, which is to reduce by 50 percent the proportion of the world population without safe water and sanitation by 2015. It would be nice to see it move forward.

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