2.2 million people in America live without access to running water and basic plumbing: report

2.2 million people in America live without access to running water and basic plumbing: report
Water filling
Darlene Arviso fills a 1,200-gallon water tank that we just installed outside a home in gets water in Mariano Lake, New Mexico, on November 25, 2019. Nonprofit DigDeep is providing water to families without drinking water. About a third of households in Navajo Nation are without plumbing and running water.Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • Obtaining running water at home is a struggle for many people in the United States.

  • Those who lack clean water overwhelmingly come from communities of color, according to nonprofit DigDeep.

  • People are often unaware that people in their community — even neighbors — lack modern water resources.

Brenda and hundreds of other Navajo families live in an area too remote to be reached by traditional water lines.

So when Brenda's husband injured his foot at work, the lack of running water at home to clean it caused gangrene to develop. He received successful treatment at a hospital 50 miles away.

But Brenda's lack of water meant that she couldn't make and sell tamales to fill the financial void left by her husband, the primary breadwinner, being out of work. She had no money to bring him home immediately to their home in Smith Lake, New Mexico. So he slept on the street.

Brenda's situation isn't unique.

More than 2.2 million people in America still live without running water and basic plumbing in their homes, and tens of millions more without adequate sanitation, according to a new report released today by Los Angeles-based nonprofit DigDeep, which works to provide clean water to all parts of the United States.

The millions of people who are adversely affected by the water access gap are overwhelmingly from communities of color, with indigenous households 19 times more likely than white households to live without running water and Black and Latino households twice as likely, DigDeep's founder and chief executive officer George McGraw told Insider.

"There's a reason why every Girl Scout troop or soccer team or church group have been raising money for wells in Malawi, but they don't know that there are people in their own state, in their own county, in their own town who don't have running water at home," McGraw said.

The report comes at a time when the Biden administration has focused on closing another kind of gap — one in the nation's broadband network. In a White House statement released in June, the administration announced new investments from the American Rescue Plan to help provide "every American with access to affordable, high-speed internet." The American Rescue Plan funding is in addition to the $65 billion investment in high-speed Internet access in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, according to the statement.

While the law also makes historic investment in water and sanitation, ensuring clean water for all people in the United States will take a much more targeted investment, McGraw said.

"These people spend a significant amount of their monthly income just getting the water to survive," McGraw said. "The lack of access to water leads to health issues like diabetes, cases of mental health and a pileup of bills for buying bottled water."

George McGraw
George McGraw is founder of DigDeep, a nonprofit organization that helps bring clean, running water to US communities without it.Mike Windle/Getty Images for WE Day

The water access gap impacts communities in all 50 states, urban and rural. But the largest impacts, McGraw said, are felt at the rural level in communities that are generally isolated, not treated by the news and not seen.

"The problem first started because of a legacy of disinvestment mostly for our communities of color, and that problem continues today not only because of that legacy, but because of sources like climate change and economic inequality," he said.

Families who live in the water access gap have no choice but flush sewage into nearby streams and then bathe in or collect their drinking water from those same sources, effectively exposing themselves to waterborne illnesses and racking up expensive medical bills. Many are also forced to spend a big chunk of their household income on bottled water. Some die prematurely each year. All these scenarios, the report states, cost real money.

Among other estimates in the report, the lack of access to clean water in the United States annually results in:

  • $846 million in time lost collecting water

  • $762 million in physical health compromised

  • $291 million in water purchase costs

  • $218 million in mental health conditions

  • $924 million in GDP impacts from lost productivity

The economic benefits of providing clean, running water outweigh the costs, McGraw said.

Brenda, whose last name is being withheld because of privacy concerns, now has access to water thanks to the off-grid water system installed by DigDeep's Navajo Water Project, but the work is far from complete.

"Brenda's story is illustrative of the lesson that access to clean water is your ability to go to school, your ability to keep a job and an income, your ability to play with your kids and maintain some sanity in this crazy world," McGraw said. "And so many of us take it for granted. But for millions of our neighbors, this is a daily reality that they simply can't afford to take for granted."

Read the original article on Business Insider