Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Policy Point Wednesday - Urban Water

The UN declared March 22 to be World Water Day; the focus of this year's efforts is urban water.  We don't tend to think about access to clean water in the US as a problem - but a recent review by the UN showed disparities in water equity in large American cities, where poor and minority groups disproportionately faced water shutoffs.

Urban water is a critical issue in a number of ways: of course, clean water is important for consumption, and appropriate fluid intake is a critical part of any diet.  Access to fresh drinking water has been shown to lower obesity rates in children.  The need for clean water doesn't stop with consumption, however: water is a critical resource for sanitation as well: handwashing and basic food hygiene being most critical, and in the US, water is used for safe disposal of human waste.  Sadly, it is often forgotten that poor sanitation is inexorably linked to poor water quality.

In the US, the Urban Waters movement of the EPA is forming community/government partnerships to ensure that water quality is maintained in the entire watershed...not just through local water utilities.  Local urban waterways often become a repository for trash and unsanitary waste dumping, which in turn endangers access to clean water.  This program engages communities, especially the underserved, in various projects to maintain the watershed, including waterfront development and monitoring drinking water.

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