Mar 28, 2011

Senators Introduce Water for the World Act

Legislation would increase foreign aid for providing clean water and sanitation

Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate this month by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin and Sen. Bob Corker would increase U.S. response to the worldwide safe drinking water and sanitation crisis. The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2011 would commit the U.S. to extending safe, affordable and sustainable supplies of drinking water and sanitation to 100 million people within six years. This bipartisan initiative would put the U.S. at the forefront of addressing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for drinking water and sanitation.

Five other senators have signed onto the bill as original cosponsors: Harry Reid, Pat Roberts, Ben Cardin, Johnny Isakson and Patrick Leahy.

“Access to safe drinking water is a right that everyone in the world ought to enjoy but too few are able to realize,” Durbin said. “Water access is no longer simply a global health and development issue; it is a mortal and long-term threat that is increasingly becoming a national security issue. The United States needs to do much more to ensure that global water access is protected and expanded.”

“As a fiscal conservative, I realize the urgent need to dramatically reduce federal spending and be more efficient with our resources – especially as it relates to our limited foreign aid budget. That means better focusing, targeting and coordinating our efforts to achieve results without authorizing more funding, which is exactly what the Water for the World Act does,” Corker said. “A lack of clean water leads to the deaths of 1.8 million people a year, 90% of them children. It stifles economic growth, keeps women and girls from going to work and school, and contributes to political unrest that threatens our national security. For many reasons, I believe water is one of the wisest places we can focus our foreign aid.”

The bill would also strengthen the capacity of USAID, with its newly appointed global water coordinator, Christian Holmes, and the U.S. State Department to ramp up U.S. developmental and diplomatic leadership, while further catalyzing initiatives by American citizens to provide safe, affordable and sustainable drinking water and basic sanitation. The bill builds on the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, which made safe drinking water and sanitation a priority of U.S. foreign development assistance. The bill is nearly identical to a bill that passed the Senate by unanimous consent last year.