World Water Day: Leaving No One Behind

March 22, 2019, is the U.N.’s World Water Day and the theme for this year is “Leaving no one behind – water for all.” According to the U.N., billions of people throughout the world are living without safe water for their households, schools, workplaces, and farms.

When we think of little or no water, our minds often go to less-developed countries where there is little or no infrastructure. We are wrong in thinking this way.

A recent NPR report showed that a growing number of people simply cannot afford their water. Many cities are battling aging water infrastructures, some places having pipes from the 1800s, that are disintegrating. The amount of money allocated to water infrastructure by the federal government has been shrinking and cities are left to foot the bill and forwarding the costs to water customers. The cost of water has spiked in recent years in cities throughout the U.S. (in Chicago the cost of water has tripled since 2007).

The high cost of water is felt most strongly by lower-income people. A high-income family may not even notice that their water bill has been creeping higher and higher, but for those on a fixed or low income, the high water bills can be life-threatening. Often people cannot afford to pay their high water bill and it is shut off (between 2010 and 2018, Detroit has sent out 142,953 shut-off notices). Imagine not having water for drinking, cooking, or bathing; this has become a reality for many.

If water systems are not modernized soon, the changing climate will cause more contamination. A study published in the journal Science last year found that nutrient pollution flowing into rivers will likely increase as the climate changes because global warming is expected to cause more extreme storms and intense precipitation throughout the U.S. and in other areas, climate change is expected to cause more intense droughts and therefore more water-supply challenges. Other reports show the growing amount of plastic contaminants in our water supply.

You’ll never miss your water until the well runs dry … or lead fills the drinking glass … or nitrates run through the stream … or the city shuts you off.

Paulette Demers
Paulette Demers
Paulette DeMers is the UUMFE Communications Coordinator (joining the organization in July 2018). Paulette is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Rochester, Minn.