3 Ways Access To Safe Water Is Threatened In The U.S.

Our country has a safe water problem — fracking, privatization and factory farming all contribute to our nation’s water crisis.

by Romain Coetmellec

In the U.S, the promise that everyone should be able to access safe water is being threatened on a daily basis.

World Water Day is a day dedicated to ensuring safe drinking water and sanitation for everyone. Assessing conditions here and around the globe, we are reminded that the fight for safe water is far from over.

Increased Privatization = Decreased Access to Safe Water

Water privatization is when private corporations buy or operate public water utilities. It’s often suggested as a solution to municipal budget challenges and aging infrastructure and water systems. Unfortunately, this more often backfires, leaving communities with higher rates, worse service, job losses and more:

  • Loss of control: water privatization reduces local control and public rights. Nowadays, 35 million Americans receive their water from privately owned for-profit utilities. Because the bottom line of a corporation is to turn profits, providing quality water and service at a fair price takes a back seat, leaving communities to suffer the consequences and financial burden. 
  • High Rates: for the typical household, privately owned water utility service costs 59% more than public water service — about $185 per year. Many communities can’t afford this.
  • Quality of service: privatization can worsen the service. There is ample evidence that maintenance backlogs, wasted water, sewage spills, and worse service often follow privatization.
  • Job loss: privatization often leads to a loss of one in three water jobs.
  • Infrastructure risks: because 70 to 80% of water and sewer assets are underground, a municipality can’t easily monitor a contractor’s performance.

Fracking + PFAS = Water Contamination

Over the past decade, Big Oil & Gas corporations with drilling and fracking operations have pumped “forever chemicals” into the ground. Over time these break into toxic substances known as PFAS.

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are toxic, lab-made chemicals. Long term exposure to these PFAS has been associated with health problems including:

  • Thyroid disease 
  • Weakened immunity
  • Cancer

Today, PFAS are everywhere — in our drinking water, our pots and pans, and even our bodies. They simply don’t break down in the environment. Ever.

The EPA has long promised to set safety standards and address the widespread water contamination caused by PFAS. In 2021, they took a step in the right direction, announcing they would start to regulate certain types of these forever chemicals by 2023.

We need strong regulations, comprehensive limits on the full class of PFAS chemicals and adequate funding to help public water providers fully implement critical new PFAS standards. This is how we can make sure everyone has clean, safe water.

Factory Farming = Polluted Waterways

One of the nation’s most serious and persistent threats to clean drinking water is pollution from factory farm runoff.  

The agricultural sector is the greatest source of nutrient pollution to global freshwater supplies. Big Ag and meat facilities use water for everything, from animal feed and production to animal slaughtering and processing.  

Industrial livestock operations produce 1 billion tons of phosphorus and nitrogen-rich waste annually in the U.S. alone. In the U.S., this negatively impacts the water quality of:

  • 145,000 miles of rivers and streams 
  • Nearly 1 million acres of lakes, reservoirs and ponds
  • More than 3000 square miles of bays and estuaries 

How Can We — As Individuals — Help Ensure Safe Water For Everyone?

Every single one of us can play a part! 

Getting ourselves educated about the issues, informing our elected officials, voting and advocating for safe water are all within reach.

Then finally, everyone should support organizations like Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action.

We were among the first to advocate against water shutoffs when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Our work has so far helped protect millions of people.

We fight every day to make sure water remains a right and not a luxury, at the federal, state and local levels.

Are you ready to join the fight for safe water?

Urge your members of Congress to support the WATER Act!