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It’s a problem that you’d expect to find in a developing nation, but it’s happening right here in the United States – cities are struggling to supply safe drinking water to their residents. Jackson, Mississippi, Flint, Michigan, parts of New York City, Baltimore, and Hawaii have all had to deal with contaminated water in recent years. But why are so many cities having problems with their drinking water?
Shannon Marquez, Dean of Global Engagement and professor of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at Columbia University, joins John Yang to discuss the issue. Marquez explains that there are a number of factors that have led to this crisis, including aging infrastructure, lack of financing for rehabilitation, Climate change and extreme weather events, and historical disinvestment in communities of color.
Marquez points out that the problem is much more widespread than what we hear in the news – we only hear about cities when there are extreme events like boil water advisories. But the lack of financing means that many communities are facing similar challenges right now, and we just don’t hear about it.
Marquez also mentions that communities are generally uninformed about the vulnerabilities and challenges with their water systems. Water is not valued properly in our country, and people take it for granted that it will be readily available and safe. This lack of understanding, combined with environmental racism and the historical disinvestment in communities of color, has led to the current state of affairs.
The President’s recent infrastructure bill provides some help, but unfortunately, the $55 billion allocated is not enough to fully meet the need. Marquez estimates that it will cost nearly $480 billion over the next 20 years to fix America’s drinking water infrastructure. The infrastructure package will not meet the full need, and the complicated criteria for receiving funding falls to the states to decide.
In conclusion, it’s time for Americans to start to demand that their local and state governments prioritize the funding and rehabilitation of these crucial systems. The cost of inaction will only continue to grow as the infrastructure continues to age. So, let’s raise our glasses and take a sip of action to ensure that everyone has access to safe and clean drinking water.
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