A new report about drinking water policy just released by the Water Foundation and the US Water Alliance that was based on roundtables held around the country found that “despite regional differences, leaders face many shared challenges, and winning coalitions and campaigns have approached drinking water challenges in some similar ways,” yet they face similar obstacles as well.
Policy Innovations to Secure Drinking Water for All was produced after organizers met with nearly 100 state and Tribal water experts, advocates, and organizers in a series of regional roundtables in Atlanta, Detroit, Sacramento, and Santa Fe between fall 2019 and winter 2020. The roundtables resulted in a series of takeaways and recommendations, which are detailed in the report.
One critical takeaway is that “community-driven solutions advanced by diverse coalitions have the power to drive significant policy change.” This has been brought into sharp focus given the COVID-19 pandemic that is sweeping across the country and the impact that a lack of clean, safe water has on public health in vulnerable communities. While most Americans are fortunate to have sufficient clean, safe water, millions of people in this country have drinking water that is toxic and undrinkable and they live with acute illnesses and chronic diseases because of it. Other families don’t have money to pay their water bills and face water shutoffs. Some families face both of these dilemmas.
An important conclusion the organizers reached was that philanthropies need to do more. To bring the successes found at smaller scales to larger communities, more support from philanthropies is needed for organizing, lobbying and political activities. From the authors, “Private foundations have far more capacity to invest in political advocacy than they are currently using, and this is the time to activate all the tools we have to their greatest extent.”