More than two million Americans lack access to clean water,according to a new report
by clean-water advocacy non-profits DigDeep and the U.S. Water Alliance. The U.S. doesn't have a reliable, central data source to track how many Americans lack access to water and sanitation, according to the report. So DigDeep founder George McGraw commissioned experts from around the country to piece together the data.
The problem disproportionately affects rural residents, especially Native Americans on reservations, and those in substandard housing, the report found. Because African American and Latinx populationsare more likely
to live in substandard housing, they're disproportionately affected too.
Moreover, states and local or tribal governments are increasingly on the hook to pay for water system improvements. "Today federal funding for water infrastructure is a small percentage of what it once was. Across the country, 44 million people are served by water systems that recently had Safe Drinking Water Act violations," Lauren Moralesreports
Native Americans are the worst off, according to the report. Out of every 1,000 Native American households, 58 lack plumbing, compared with three of every 1,000 white households, Morales reports. Navajo Darlene Yazzie said she has to drive nine miles away to access fresh water, and the price is going up soon. She has a windmill-powered well, but the well is dry when the wind isn't blowing, she told Morales. "Yazzie said the windmill water isn't safe for humans anyway. Officials told her arsenic and uranium levels are too high. Yazzie and many others give the water to their animals, even though they plan to eat them," Morales reports. But it's often prohibitively expensive to build water pipelines to remote tribal nations in the Southwest: the Indian Health Service estimated it would cost $200 million to provide basic water and sanitation access to the Navajo Nation.
The problem isn't limited to reservations. Martin County in rural Eastern Kentucky hasgained national attention
because its water system is so terrible. Things got so bad there that state regulators ordered the water district to sign a contract giving control to outside management by tomorrow or face serious financial penalties. "State regulators placed the blame squarely on the district’s past and current management, saying officials made 'little to no effort to repair and replace aging infrastructure in order to maintain an adequate level of service to its ratepayers,' failed to keep adequate financial records, and failed to hire a permanent general manager," Will Wrightreports
for the Lexington Herald-Leader.