Group Applauds U.S. Bills for Safe World Water

The House of Representatives and the Senate now have both introduced legislation that would put the United States in the forefront of addressing the UN's Millennium Development Goals for drinking water and sanitation.

The House version, The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009, commits the nation to extending safe, affordable, and sustainable supplies of water and sanitation to 100 million people by 2015.

Water Advocates commends Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), George Miller (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), John Boozman (R-Ariz.), Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) and Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

"No other country has set out to reach as many people in need of safe drinking water and basic sanitation in this period of time," said David Douglas, president of Water Advocates. "This is one of the most effective actions the United States can take to improve health worldwide."

Nearly 1 billion people currently lack access to safe water, and 2.5 billion people lack a way to dispose of their human wastes safely. More than two dozen resulting diseases --including cholera, typhoid, hookworm, and schistosomiasis -- trigger the world's most serious public health problem. Diarrheal dehydration caused by these diseases kills more children than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

Development experts point out that inadequate water and sanitation undermine not only global health but efforts to protect the environment, keep children in school, and empower women. Women and children, as the primary water-haulers across the developing world, bear the brunt of this crisis.

"The Water for the World Act answers the call to act and helps build a healthier, safer and more equitable future," said Blumenauer.

The bill would also strengthen the capacity of USAID and U.S. Department of State to ramp up U.S. developmental and diplomatic leadership, while buttressing American private-citizen initiatives to provide safe, affordable, and sustainable drinking water and basic sanitation. The bill builds on the similarly-named landmark 2005 legislation ("The Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act") that at long last made safe drinking water and sanitation a priority of U.S. foreign development assistance.

"This new legislation is critical for bringing support -- both financial and human -- for the water and sanitation crisis to respectable levels," said Patricia Simon, wife of the late Sen. Paul Simon. "We shouldn't forget that this problem is solvable; we know the solutions."