Though access to safe, affordable drinking water and basic sanitation is a necessity for all people, and is acknowledged by the member states of the United Nations as a human right, there is an escalating water crisis in the United States affecting families, neighborhoods and individuals. ...Read More

The new administration is rushing to spend public funds on ill-advised infrastructure. While environmental protection and investment are essential to food, water, and economic security in the United States in the face of climate change impacts, aging infrastructure and degradation of natural resources, these must be accompanied with protections for low-income and vulnerable populations to ensure all have access to safe, affordable water. Without community-driven solutions, the rush to fund water, sanitation, storm water and climate adaptation infrastructure in the water sector will work largely to the benefit of private engineering and construction firms and lock-in regressive policies and programs that disproportionately affect low-income people by saddling them with an unsupportable cost burden.

Those affected most profoundly are low income, people of color, including indigenous First Nations people, children, women, persons with disabilities, and our elders. The suffering from lack of access impacts residents of large urban cities like Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, and Washington D.C. Suburban and rural communities across the country do not have access – Alabama to California and New Mexico to West Virginia. Contaminated drinking water are poisoning children with lead from Flint, Michigan to St. Joseph’s, Louisiana, to Los Angeles California. Homeless persons are without water and sanitation facilities in many states, with no provisions made for their access. Criminalization is occurring across the nation, with laws, which label customer necessity and self-reconnections as criminal, in some states as a felony.

The national water crisis has affected thousands of urban and rural homes where people are suffering the daily indignity of not having running water for their human needs, health, hydration, cooking, bathing, and sanitation, including sewage services for the most basic function of waste removal. Utilities are creating public health emergencies by delivering toxic water and mass water shut offs of thousands of homes.
Unjust and outdated law and operating policies result in consequences of discrimination, violations of due process and constitutional rights, foreclosures, children being taken into foster care, and criminal prosecutions of householders and homeless persons. Presently there is no transparency regarding water shutoffs or national data collection of statistics regarding toxic and unsafe water. In the United States today – if you cannot pay for water, sanitation and storm water services – you are at risk of losing your basic rights, health, home, children, and liberty.

Research to Support National Legislation

  • America’s Hidden Water Affordability Crisis
    Naked Capitalism
    Yves Smith, March 2017.
  • Water Injustice:
    Economic and Racial Disparities in Access to Safe and Clean Water in the United States
    Food and Water Watch, March 2017.
  • A Burgeoning Crisis?
    A Nationwide Assessment of the Geography of Water Affordability in the United States
    Elizabeth Mack and Sarah Wrase, Michigan State University
    PLOS One, Funded by National Science Foundation, January 2017.
  • At Risk and High-Risk Census Tracts for Water Unaffordability
    Elizabeth Mack and Sarah Wrase, Michigan State University, January 2017.
  • Water Strategies for the Next Administration
    Peter Glieck, Science Mag, November 2016.
  • The Invisible Crisis:
    Water Unaffordability in the United States
    Patricia Jones and Amber Moulton, Unitarian Universalist Service Commitee, May 2016.
  • In American Towns:
    Private Profits from Public Works
    Danielle Ivory, Ben Protess and Griff Palmer, New York Times, December 2016.
  • Why we Need National Water Affordability Legislation
    Sharmila Murthy, Harvard Law and Policy Review, March 2016.
  • The State of Public Water in the United States
    Food and Water Watch, February 2016.
  • Detection of Poly – and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) in U.S. Drinking Water Linked to Industrial Sites, Military Fire Training Areas, and Wastewater Treatment Plants
    American Chemical Society, 2016.
  • Review and Recommendations for Implementing Water and Wastewater Affordability Programs in the United States
    National Consumer Law Center, March 2014.
  • The Federal Government’s State and Local Governments’ Spending on Transportation and Water Infrastructure
    Congressional Budget Office, 2014.
  • Tapped Out:
    Threats to the Human Right to Water in the Urban United States
    Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute, 2013.
  • Best Practices in Customer Payment Assistance Programs
    Environmental Protection Agency, 2010.

Research to Support State Legislation

  • The Human Right to Water Bill in California:
    An Implementation Framework for State Agencies
    UC-Berkeley International Human Rights Law Clinic, May 2013.
  • Assessing Water Affordability:
    A Pilot Study in Two Regions of California
    Pacific Institute, August 2013.
  • Water Rates/Water Affordability
    Pacific Institute, 2013
  • The Legal Implications of AB685, California’s Human Right to Water Bill
    Safe Water Alliance, March 2012.

Research to Support Local Ordinances

  • The Impact of Geographical Water Shutoffs on the Diagnosis of Potentially Water-associated Illness, with the Role of Social Vulnerability Examined
    Alexander Plum, Henry Ford Global Health Initiative, March 2017.
  • Water Affordability in Philadelphia—Comparing the Tiered Discount and Percentage of Income-Based Bill Affordability Proposals
    Roger Colton, October 2015.
  • The Color of Water:
    A Report on the Human Right to Water in the City of Boston
    Massachusetts Global Action, 2015.
  • Detroit Minds Dying:
    An online, interactive documentary about the ongoing fight for affordable water in Detroit
    Detroit Minds Dying, 2014.
  • What does a Percentage of Income Plan Buy?
    Roger Colton, 2014.
  • Detroit Needs a Water Affordability Plan
    Food and Water Watch, May 2015.
  • Mt. Shasta Water Rights—Who Decides?
    Mount Shasta Community Rights Project, 2011.
  • Poland Springs Abandons Plan to Extract Water in Shapleigh
    Ellen Todd, 2009.