On Thursday, February 26, UUSC joined with a group of concerned lawmakers to sponsor a congressional briefing about water affordability and accessibility in the United States, where average water prices have risen some 33% since 2010. Panelists offered a pointed, concerned, and still hopeful look at the trouble on tap and challenges to affordable water throughout the nation. As Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), one of the sponsoring legislators, said, “In the world’s most prosperous nation, it’s unthinkable that anyone should go without safe, affordable water.” And yet, as panelists shared, that is exactly what is happening for hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents.
Patricia Jones, UUSC’s legal expert on the human right to water, made a particular point to highlight the discriminatory nature of recent water shutoffs that have been affecting low-income families of color in Michigan: “Detroit is the new Selma. Just add water.” Jones presented alongside Detroit attorney Alice Jennings, noted economist Roger Colton, U.S. Conference of Mayors’ David Gatton, and moderator Michael Shank, journalist and director of Media Strategy for Climate Nexus.
As Shank explains, this challenge is not going away:
“Water is the issue that will dominate the next few decades of U.S. domestic and foreign policymaking. Basic to every ingredient of essential human and economic function, a mismanagement of water availability, accessibility, and acceptability will be disastrous to our health, our security, and our economy. We must get this right. Currently we are getting it very wrong. America’s water infrastructure receives a ‘D’ grade by the American Society of Civil Engineers, requires trillions of dollars in repairs, and expects water shortages in nearly every state of the union in the next 10 years. Due to public and private sector controls over drinking water, as well as global warming impacts across the country, millions of Americans are going without water, deprived of a basic human right. This should alarm every member of Congress and finally put water it its rightful high-priority place.”