With all the division in our government, it is easy to forget there are some policy priorities that actually cut across party lines and geographical boundaries. Constituents may have different opinions on health care and tax reform, but they have a lot in common too. They get up in the morning and brush their teeth, use the bathroom, and make coffee. Many of them commute to school or work. They travel with their families on summer vacations and for holidays. They buy groceries and eat at restaurants.
When it comes to the essentials, we really do have more that unites us than divides us, which is why the majority of Americans want the federal government to prioritize investing in infrastructure. Earlier this year, voters were polled on what they wanted the federal government to focus on for a legislative agenda. By a double-digit margin, investment in infrastructure was the most important topic above any other issue. Two thirds of voters said so. And an astonishing 82 percent of Americans said water infrastructure needed to be a top priority. Eighty-two percent of Americans can’t even agree on what day of the week it is!
But if you think about it, water unites all of us. Of course people say it should be a priority. Can you even begin to imagine a day without water? It isn’t just your personal use of water – brushing your teeth, flushing your toilet, taking a shower – though those rituals are vital. Water is also essential to a functioning economy. What is a college campus or a hotel supposed to do if there is no water? They close. How can a restaurant, coffee shop, or brewery serve customers without water to cook, make coffee and beer, or wash the dishes? They can’t. And what about manufacturers – from pharmaceuticals to automobiles – that rely on water? They would grind to a halt too.
An economic study released by the Value of Water Campaign earlier this year found that a single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk. But investing in water infrastructure, unfortunately, has not been a priority for decades. The federal government’s investment has declined precipitously, leaving states, localities, and water utilities to make up the difference. Which means it is on localities to raise taxes, or for utilities to charge water rates that can pay for the massive infrastructure system of pumps, plants, and pipes. And the truth is, communities across the country have let those systems deteriorate for far too long.
We saw the tragedy in Flint, Michigan where thousands of residents were affected by tainted water supplies. Water systems in other communities are under threat too, and millions of Americans live in regions that completely lack water infrastructure.
There is no doubt about it – a day without water is a crisis. That is why we are joining with hundreds of groups across the country for Imagine a Day Without Water, because we want people to pay attention to our water systems. This country can do great things, and if 82 percent of Americans agree on something it must be important. Water is a public health issue, it is an economic issue. No community can thrive without water, and every American deserves a safe, reliable, accessible water supply. Let’s demand better, and make sure no American ever has to imagine a day without water again.