Speak out on Water for the World

A boy carries jerry cans for water near a reservoir built by CWS in West Timor, Indonesia.  Photo: Matt Hackworth/CWS

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning to consider the Paul Simon Water for the World Act on Tuesday, June 19. More co-sponsors are needed.

The need for adequate drinking water and sanitation remains great. Eighty percent of sickness in the developing world, and the deaths of 4,500 children daily, trace back to contaminated water and inadequate sanitation. Diarrheal dehydration caused by these diseases kills more children than AIDS, malaria and TB combined.

In 2005, Congress passed the Water for the Poor Act, which made safe drinking water and sanitation official U.S. foreign policy priorities. To build on this success, a bipartisan group of leaders in the Senate (led by Senator Corker and Senator Durbin) recently introduced the Water for the World Act of 2011 (S.641). This new legislation would place high-level water leadership at USAID and the State Department, ensure that a significant portion of field personnel have water and sanitation experience, and set a goal of bringing sustainable, safe drinking water and sanitation to 100 million people over the next six years.

In FY 2009 alone, U.S. programs improved access to safe drinking water for 6.4 million people, of whom approximately 4.5 million received first-time access to an improved supply. This funding is highly efficient, returning $8 for every $1 spent, according to World Health Organization estimates. In addition, sustainable water and sanitation programs lay the groundwork for improvements in economic development, public health, child survival, basic education, gender equity, and food security.

Additionally, cost-efficient development efforts such as water and sanitation programs become even more important to engage with other countries and stabilize troubled regions. Illustrating this point, a 2011 National Intelligence Estimate shows that water scarcity issues will contribute to security threats in strategically important countries within the next 10 years.

Water, sanitation and hygiene are crucial building blocks for development. They improve quality of life and health, advance education, reduce poverty and malnutrition, drive economic growth, and contribute to gender equality and dignity.

Contact your Senator urging him or her to co-sponsor the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act.

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