Lack of Access to Clean Water and Sanitation Impact on Health

Access to running water and sanitation is often thought of as an issue of the developing world, but over 2 million Americans face this problem. Those impacted are some of society’s most vulnerable. People without running water or toilets face major health implications as well as food insecurity, inequality, and developmental delays. Water and sanitation are also integral to economic stability.
People Impacted
$ 1.7T
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

It is widely known that lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities can lead to increased likelihood of contracting disease. It is less known, however, that it exacerbates existing conditions such as HIV/AIDS, food insecurity, delayed cognitive and physical development, gender inequity, under-nutrition, and poor overall health. Most initiatives focus on the developing world, but over 2 million people in the U.S. live without running water and basic indoor plumbing.

Symptoms and Causes

On the Navajo Nation in the Southwest, families drive for hours to haul barrels of water to meet their basic needs. In the Central Valley of California, residents fill bottles at public taps, because their water at home is not safe to drink. In West Virginia, people drink from polluted streams. In Alabama, parents warn their children not to play outside because their yards are flooded with sewage. In Puerto Rico, wastewater regularly floods the streets of low-income neighborhoods. Families living in Texas border towns worry because there is no running water to fight fires.

the impact
Economic Impact

Water and sanitation are integral to economic stability. Beyond the immediate unpleasant consequences of diarrheal diseases, the lack of access to clean water cripples a community’s economic growth. High rates of disease, time spent collecting water, and stunted growth from under-nutrition all hinder economic development. Proper water and sanitation are prerequisites of market development.

who benefits from solving this problem

While the majority of Americans take high-quality drinking water and sanitation access for granted, millions of the most vulnerable people in the country— low-income people in rural areas, people of color, tribal communities, immigrants—have fallen through the cracks. Their communities did not receive adequate water and wastewater infrastructure when the nation made historic investments in these systems in past decades. That initial lack of investment created a hidden water and sanitation crisis that continues to threaten the health and wellbeing of millions of people today.

financial insights
Current Funding

Today, federal funding for water infrastructure is a small percentage of what it once was, and communities that did not benefit from past investments have a harder time catching up. Some communities even report that they are losing access to services they once had, suggesting that fewer people tomorrow will have a working tap or toilet than do today. In fact, the number of people without access to complete plumbing recently increased in six states.

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