Every single person deserves access to clean, safe water. That’s why ten years ago today, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to clean, safe water and sanitation and acknowledged that they are essential to the realization of all human rights.
But right now, that right is being threatened by privatization around the world, including in the United States.
Every two years, Congress passes a bill focused on major water infrastructure projects across the country. But right now, there’s a dangerous bill in the Senate that would encourage cities and towns to privatize our water systems, taking direct control of our water out of public hands. And there’s concern that this pro-privatization bill could be tacked on to the larger water bill that’s moving in the next few weeks. This bill, called the Voluntary Water Partnership for Distressed Communities Act, was introduced by Senators Duckworth (D-IL), Braun (R-IN), and Feinstein (D-CA).
While the name of the bill might sound nice, it’s anything but. It would incentivize distressed, under-resourced public water systems who would not have otherwise privatized to privatize by giving them an extra three years to come into federal water quality compliance. If this alarming bill passes, a water system can privatize to avoid fines and penalties for water quality violations! Additionally, after this three year period, there are no additional protections to ensure that this now-privatized system acts in compliance and provides safe water to those served by the system other than the measures that already applied to the system before privatizing.
Yes, that’s right: people could continue to have water that is unsafe while their local governments would lose the decisionmaking authority to meaningfully address the situation for years.
We’ve seen time and time again that the practice of water privatization has contributed to higher rates, cost-cutting that jeopardizes water quality, and job layoffs across the world, and too often disproportionately impacts Black communities and other communities of color. This bill could further exacerbate water injustice, all the while leading to the removal of critical public decision making power from these communities on how access to one of our most critical resources is managed.
We’ve only got a few weeks to make sure this bill doesn’t move forward. Will you make a call to your Senators right now and urge them to oppose this dangerous bill and instead stand for environmental justice, water access, public health, and public systems?
We’ve made this quick and easy for you. All you have to do is enter your information so our tool can look up your Senators, then it will call you and connect you to their offices. Then you can use the provided sample language to guide your conversation.
The environmental justice community is standing with you united in opposition to this bill. We, along with our partners at ACRE, Food & Water Action, and AFSCME issued a 300+ organizational sign-on letter standing in opposition to the bill and are currently holding meetings with key offices to denounce it.
This bill would not only provide incentives for local decision-makers to privatize water systems, but it also fails to ensure system compliance with drinking water quality standards. COVID-19 has once again shown us how critical access to clean and affordable water is for public health. What we need now is increased federal funding for our vital water systems, not legislation hijacked by privatization schemes that only benefit corporate profits.
Take a minute and call your Senators today and urge them to take a stand for the human right to water by opposing the dangerous bill that would incentivize privatization. We’ve only got a few weeks to defeat this bill, so I hope you’ll take action now.