The 2019 report Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States revealed that the most vulnerable communities did not receive adequate water infrastructure in the past, and more than 44 million people in the United States rely on systems that had health-based Safe Drinking Water Act violations in recent times. Now a new survey brings to light racial differences in the extent Americans trust their water supply, reports Forbes. Furthermore, EPA data for the years 2016-2019 shows public water supply systems that violate the Safe Drinking Water Act are more likely – up to 40% – to provide services to people of colour.
The survey, commissioned by SOURCE Global, PBC, indicates that only 24% of Black Americans and 19% of Hispanic Americans are “very confident” they can drink their tap water, compared to 43% of white Americans. Cody Friesen, founder and CEO of SOURCE Global, said: “It’s clear that our nation’s water issues pose an immediate and quickly worsening health risk, and that’s especially true for BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Colour] communities, who are also dealing with an outsized impact from Covid-19”.
Moreover, 55% of Black Americans and 44% of Hispanic Americans said they only drink bottled water. The number goes down to 28% in the case of white Americans. In some cases, bottled water is essential because of lack of access to clean drinking water. During the pandemic, all groups increased their consumption of bottled water, a change in habits more common among people of colour. The pandemic revealed environmental justice issues – disproportionate environmental risks experienced by vulnerable communities – concerning access to safe water. The EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, established in 1992 under the name Office of Environmental Equity, looks into the effect of deteriorating water infrastructure on low income and minority communities.
On February 25 the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability (WATER) Act of 2021 was reintroduced. Endorsed by over 500 national, state, and local organisations, the WATER Act seeks to address water justice in the U.S., with nearly $35 billion a year for drinking water and wastewater improvements.