Senator says water crisis is 'mortal and long-term threat' to global health, stability

March 23, 2009
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) delivered remarks on the global water crisis today and introduced legislation to dramatically improve access to clean water and sanitation...

WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 17, 2009 -- Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) delivered remarks on the global water crisis today and introduced legislation to dramatically improve access to clean water and sanitation.

"Access to safe drinking water is a right that everyone in the world ought to enjoy but too few are able to realize," Durbin said. "Water access is no longer simply a global health and development issue; it is a mortal and long-term threat that is increasingly becoming a national security issue. The United States needs to do much more to ensure that global water access is protected and expanded."

Almost one billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water and two of every five people live without basic sanitation services. Global warming, rapid industrialization and population and economic growth will continue to put pressure on global water supplies, particularly in developing nations. Such water issues can no longer been seen as isolated problems, but must instead be viewed as factors contributing to regional tensions, global health, child and maternal mortality, and economic growth.

Durbin's remarks discussed the magnitude of the crisis, highlight a number of efforts to improve water access and pledge to dramatically increase the ability of the US government help provide clean water and sanitation programs abroad by the year 2015. His full remarks before a Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Global Health Policy Center and Global Strategy Institute discussion on the global water crisis are attached. In addition, Durbin delivered a taped statement before the Fifth Global Water Forum, held this week in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Paul Simon Water for the World Act
The Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 -- sponsored by Senator Durbin -- made access to safe water and sanitation for developing countries a specific policy objective of the United States Foreign Assistance Program. The Act was named after the late Paul Simon, who ten years ago wrote the prescient book, Tapped Out, which warned of the world's looming clean water crisis.

The Act has already made a difference in the world: last year alone the U.S. helped provide nearly 2 million people with first time access to an improved source of drinking water and more than 1.5 million people to improved sanitation.

To build on the progress achieved through the Water for the Poor Act, Senator Durbin introduced the Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009 -- new legislation that places water in the forefront of America's development priorities, seeking to reach 100 million people around the world with sustainable access to clean water and sanitation by 2015.

To achieve this goal, the bill would:
• Target underdeveloped countries with focused initiatives to improve access to clean water and sanitation;
• Foster global cooperation on research and technology development, including regional partnerships among experts on clean water;
• Provide technical assistance and capacity-building to develop expertise within countries facing water and sanitation challenges;
• Provide seed money for the deployment of clean water and sanitation technologies; and
• Strengthen the human infrastructure at USAID and the State Department to implement clean water and sanitation programs effectively and to ensure that water receives priority attention in our foreign policy efforts.

The Water for the World Act represents a robust U.S. contribution to the Millennium Development Goal on water, which is to reduce by 50 percent the proportion of the world population without safe water and sanitation by 2015.

Durbin's bill is cosponsored by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), and Patty Murray (D-WA). A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Donald Payne (D-NJ).

Last year, Senator Durbin played a leading role in providing $300 million in federal funds to help implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act.

Also last year, Durbin received the Water Advocate award for his work in promoting safe drinking water and sanitation in the developing world. The award was presented by Water Advocates -- a U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing support for worldwide access to safe, affordable and sustainable drinking water.

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