Congress must act to ensure safe, clean, affordable water for all

American Rivers and River Network call for ban on water shut-offs and restoration of water services for the duration of the coronavirus public health emergency, investment in critical water infrastructure

March 27, 2020

Contact: 
Destinee Henton, American Rivers, 216-400-8572
Sheyda Esnaashari, River Network, 612-512-4591

Read the policy statement

As the coronavirus pandemic threatens communities nationwide, American Rivers and River Network today called on Congress to act immediately to ensure safe, clean, affordable water for all.

“Access to clean water is vital to preventing the spread of this virus and protecting our families and communities. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to intensify, the intersection of water and public health is more apparent than ever,” said Destinee Henton, Associate Director for Clean Water Supply at American Rivers.

“Through this time of crisis, we must begin building the just and equitable society we all wish to see,” said Sheyda Esnaashari, Drinking Water Program Manager at River Network. “Too many people in our country lack access to clean water, and too many people continue to have their water shut off for late or non-payment. For the sake of our health, economy and communities, Congress must take steps now to change this.”

American Rivers and River Network called on Congress to take the following actions for the duration of the coronavirus public health emergency:

  1. Ban involuntary water shutoffs nationwide. 
  2. Mandate safe restoration of water services for all without access.
  3. Prioritize water infrastructure funding to communities most in need of critical water infrastructure investments.
  4. Increase and sustain water infrastructure funding in general for water systems to ensure safe and affordable water and sanitation for all Americans at all times.

Roughly one million people in our country lack access to indoor plumbing and more than 13 million U.S. households regularly face unaffordable water bills. These numbers disproportionately represent low-income and communities of color. Tribal or Indigenous communities and undocumented immigrant communities are disproportionately impacted, with limited access to clean, safe and affordable water. At the same time, water utilities nationwide are struggling to fund maintenance or replacement of aging infrastructure. 

“This pandemic is exposing longstanding injustices and inequities when it comes to our water infrastructure,” said Henton. “Community-led frontline organizations are leading the effort for clean water, but they need action and support at the federal level. It’s time to ensure all communities receive clean, safe and affordable water⁠ regardless of race, class, immigration status or otherwise⁠ during this unprecedented crisis.”

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