March 22, 2020

Defending the human right to water this World Water Day

Today is World Water Day — a day to remember that one of the most fundamental truths is that water is a human right, and that access to clean, safe, and affordable water is essential for daily life.

In years past, people around the world celebrated World Water Day with public events, but this year we mark the occasion on a more somber note. At this moment, we are facing a global health and economic crisis as the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak continue to grow. Yet as the pandemic spreads, the events of the last several weeks have only underscored what we already know about water justice: that access to water is not only a human rights issue, but a public health issue as well.

At a critical time when people everywhere are being told to vigilantly wash their hands and stay hydrated, it’s impossible to ignore that some people do not have the ability to take these simple measures to protect themselves — in part because of inhumane shut-off policies that penalize people who are struggling or simply unable to pay their water bills.

That’s why we are standing alongside 577 other organizations to call on each and every Governor across the U.S. to take immediate action and end water shutoffs as well as restore water services to homes that have been disconnected. This is an essential step to stemming the spread of the coronavirus and advancing the human right to water.

According to a Food & Water Watch report, an estimated 15 million people in the U.S. experienced water shutoffs in 2016.1 Those that are typically impacted most severely by these policies are the millions of low-income households and communities of color across the country.

The practice of shutting off people’s water due to inability to pay not only violates the human right to water, it also creates a public health emergency that worsens in times of crisis.

Every day of inaction is another day where the health and livelihoods of millions of people remain in jeopardy. It shouldn’t take a global pandemic for Governors to implement these policies, but the severity and urgency of the moment that we’re in demands it.

Stand alongside water justice activists from Detroit to Seattle today: Demand your Governor end water shutoffs and restore water services right now.

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