Water is a fundamental human right. But today, access to clean, safe drinking water is by no means guaranteed and our outdated water infrastructure is not ready for the impacts of climate change. Since 1977, federal funding for water infrastructure has fallen by 82 percent, even as the combined price of water and sewage utilities have increased. Drinking water is often poisoned by degrading lead and cast iron pipes, industrial runoff, combined sewer overflows, and pollution from harmful agricultural practices like pesticide and herbicide application. All of these issues emerge from privatization and corporate control over water and a lack of public investment in water infrastructure.The climate crisis has also transformed the way society interacts with water as floods and droughts happen globally.
Decisions about who manages water infrastructure, whether it is safe and made accessible, and how we invest in water treatment and infrastructure resilience are critical environmental justice issues. Clean, accessible, affordable water and resilient water infrastructure are critical for building thriving communities. Achieving water justice requires addressing issues of allocation, management, and preparedness. Allocation concerns equitably distributing water not only to all residents but to the facilities and ecosystems that need it. Management ensures water is clean and safe, while preparedness entails thinking ahead to build infrastructure that is robust and climate-proof. Water is life, and water justice is a critical aspect of any transformative GND.