Limited access toit remains a struggle for millions of Americans. And lack of access to water is expected to become an even greater problem in the coming years in the United States and around the world.
In West Virginia, many McDowell County families rely on collecting water from cool springs, which may freeze in winter or dry out in summer. Bob McKinney is the Appalachia Water Project manager for DigDeep, a nonprofit organization that works to provide water to Americans who otherwise would not have access. He says he estimates that about half of McDowell’s population does not have reliable running water in their homes.
“We’ve had people who came to food banks to get food and they told us they need access to clean drinking water because [they] I haven’t had water for two weeks, “McKinney said. He explained that often it’s because a water pump has gone down or a line has broken due to deterioration.. But in other cases, some families only have water lines connected to a contaminated well, where the water is unusable.
Across the United States, about 2.2 million people do not have running water, according to data collected by DigDeep.
On a global scale, “about four billion people – nearly two-thirds of the living human race – experience severe water shortages for at least a month a year,” wrote Laurence Smith in Rivers of Power, a book published on last year about how water has shaped civilization.
According to the forecasts of the World Economic Forum, by 2030 there will be a 40% gap between the global supply and demand for water.
“Many of our largest or most important rivers now dry out, or nearly so, before they reach the mouth of the river at certain times of the year,” he said. Smith, professor of environmental studies at Brown University. “There are populations with enormous dependencies on these rivers and that is why they are running out.”
He told CBS News that even when population growth is stable, higher living standards strain the water supply. “They want to eat more meat, which requires a lot more water, and they want to have more stuff, more industry, which requires a lot more water,” Smith said.
Smith wrote in “Rivers of Power” that “today, our demand for water is motivating plans for new mega-engineering river projects on a scale and pace the world has never seen” and that “the next few years. they will see the most elaborate river diversion patterns ever imagined. ”
To help increase Southern California’s water supply, water and sanitation officials are working on plans for the nation’s largest recycled water project.
“We want to take nearly two-thirds of the wastewater that ends up in the ocean and turn it into safe, clean drinking water that can supply our groundwater basins,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, who aims to develop the project with the Los Angeles County Sanitation District. The cost would be approximately $ 3.5 billion.
Access to water is also a major concern in the Navajo Nation, where about 30 percent of the 173,000 residents have no running water. DigDeep has installed water systems for 259 households, but there are thousands more that still don’t have access. This has caused even greater difficulties as the community struggled with the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Covid Tracking Project, blacks and Native Americans are dying from the disease at about 1.4 times the rate of white Americans. Native Americans are also 19 times more likely to have no running water in their homes, according to DigDeep data. Black Americans are twice as likely.
“For all of COVID, there were only two things we could do to prevent infection, we could stay at home and we could wash our hands … and those two things are impossible if you don’t have running water at home,” he said. said George McGraw, CEO of DigDeep. “You cannot wash your hands because you do not have water and you are constantly forced to break the social isolation to go and collect water”.
McGraw explained that at the start of the pandemic, many Navajo Nation residents would go out to buy water only to find that stores were out of stock because others were stockpiling supplies. Shopping limits in stores also prevented residents from getting the amount of water needed for basic needs when water became available.
“There might be an elderly lady who has to go out and fetch water from a 55 gallon barrel … or it might be a kid going out and getting water for their single mom,” said Cindy Howe, project manager for DigDeep’s Navajo Water Project. “And the latrines, too, are 50 feet from someone’s house. They have to walk there in the snow and rain, whatever. That’s what I see every day.”
To address the issue of access to water in the United States, DigDeep lists several policy recommendations in its Close The Gap report. They include keeping a federal register of how many Americans do not have running water and drastically increasing the amount of funds available to waterless communities.
“And make that funding more available as grants rather than loans, entrusted to communities with these funds rather than forcing them to demonstrate how they will pay it back to the government,” McGraw said. “The fact that most of the white communities in this country have water systems, these systems were built with federal grant funds, they were built with free money. And so to have most of the communities that don’t have access to water. water, who are predominantly communities of color, proving how they will pay off a loan is an injustice. ”
McGraw also told CBS News that the U.S. government must also develop a WASH sector – short for water, sanitation, and sanitation – that will focus on ensuring all Americans have access to clean water and adequate sanitation. – sanitary.
“A lot of people take water for granted,” Howe said. “But it’s very sacred here because we know many people don’t have water.”