Today was World Water Day, a day where many of us give thanks for clean water and sanitation. It is also a day for us to recognize that there are many, many people around the world who still do not have access to clean water or sanitation. Those people are often seen as some of the most disadvantaged and most impoverished in the world. This year, there are many U.S. citizens in their company.
Flint has served as a revelation for many, a realization that our legal and physical infrastructure has weakened. With the drumbeat set by news stories about lead in school water, contaminants in public water supplies in Newark, Ohio and Texas, and scarring droughts hitting the U.S. heartland and California, citizens have to ask: when will we focus on water?
The White House held a Water Summit today, and it is a step in the right direction. The commitments that are being made by businesses and other groups serve as notice to others that water is a cross-sector issue, an apolitical issue and an issue that is much, much larger than whether or not clean water comes out of the tap.
Without broader changes, these commitments are weakened. Experts at Brookings and representatives of some of the largest philanthropic funders have focused on water governance as the crux of whether we have water in the future. In its truest sense, governance means both leadership and law.
Flint and other situations are a symptom. Our water infrastructure is crumbling nationwide, making our drinking water supply vulnerable to contamination. Water rights can't be honored because there simply isn't enough water available to give. We must acknowledge that our nation is at risk when our water is at risk.
This year, the UN and International Labor Organization presented World Water Day’s program: Water and Jobs. This theme reflects important ideas: we need clean water to have healthy people and a healthy economy. That means people must have access to clean, safe water. Our food producers must have access to clean, safe water. Industries must have access to water. Energy suppliers all need access to water. Our economy relies on water because it is necessary for many sectors. Jobs are linked to industry and a healthy workforce, which are linked to water. Water serves as the crux of all of these sectors.
When our water is secure, our economy is secure. When our water is secure, we are secure.