It was just five years ago that officials switched Flint’s water supply to the severely contaminated Flint River supposedly in hopes of saving money. This was meant to be a temporary “fix” but instead, it caused long-lasting consequences. The high levels of lead leached from old pipes and made their way into the mouths and bodies of Flint residents, including their children. There was a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak that killed at least a dozen people.
Five years later: things are even worse. Flint has become just one story of many about city after city facing deteriorating water infrastructure and the subsequent public health catastrophes.
Drinking Water Quality & Affordability Are Under Threat
Martin County, Kentucky, made headlines this year when word got around about their residents facing unfathomable water rates for unreliable, shoddy service. We keep hearing more stories about communities like Hoosick Falls, where water has been contaminated by the lab-made and toxic polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). Meanwhile, a growing water affordability crisis is boiling over in communities nationwide. Utilities are cutting off water service to millions of Americans who can’t afford to pay ever-increasing water bills.
Factory Farms Are Polluting Our Waterways
Iowa’s water lost big this past year too. The state faces severe water quality issues from an expanding factory farm crisis. Agricultural pollution has damaged more than 1,000 miles of Iowa’s rivers and streams and over 59,000 acres of its lakes, ponds, and wetlands. High levels of nitrates from factory farm pollution threaten both aquatic species and the health of those who drink from the tap. Safe drinking water is simply no longer a guarantee. Even though residents have been fighting to halt the polluting industry, Iowa’s elected officials have refused to even acknowledge, let alone attempt to amend, their water quality crisis.
Solutions That Match the Scale of the Problem
And on top of it all, our climate is changing. We have less and less time to get off fossil fuels and avert climate chaos every day. Our water systems are already experiencing the challenges of a changing climate: from water supplies that are stressed or compromised to increased rainfall overburdening stormwater systems and critical infrastructure vulnerable to extreme weather.
Our country will continue to face an increasingly pervasive water crisis if our elected officials carry on business as usual. Food & Water Watch is working on the local and state level to pressure our leaders to protect and upgrade our water systems, but the real answer to water woes in our country is through a national response. The Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER Act), introduced this year in both the House and the Senate by Reps. Barbara Lawrence and Ro Khanna and Senator Bernie Sanders, would allocate $35 billion a year in funding to upgrade our drinking water and wastewater systems. It would create a million jobs in the process and make sure vulnerable places like rural municipalities, Native American communities, and communities affected by PFAs are specifically addressed.
Instead of forcing everyday working Americans to shoulder the full cost of safe water, the WATER Act ensures Wall Street is paying its fair share. It rolls back a small portion of the Trump administration’s corporate tax cuts to provide a long-term, sustainable source of funding for safe and clean water. And now you can help too.