Clean Water Isn’t a Right if You Never Had It

I’ve been working for nearly 18 years helping families in American neighborhoods use our court system to force the companies that polluted their water to clean it up. Despite all the anguish that having contaminated water initially caused these families, and despite the truly reprehensible behavior of some of the polluters who caused the contamination, I’ve always known one source of hope and pride: the American belief that everyone in this country has the right to clean water. We back up this belief with a host of laws–like the federal Clean Water Act–and regulations that compel our government agencies and courts to honor the right to clean water, even if it means forcing a polluter to spend millions of dollars to restore clean water to a neighborhood.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bhaktapur-909812_1280.jpgNow, it’s certainly a fair criticism–I’ve voiced it regularly–that our “clean water” laws could be stronger, enforced more vigilantly, or applied more thoughtfully, to help the disadvantaged in our communities. But the very fact that we have these laws at all, available for enforcement by courts who take them seriously in the great majority of cases in which I have been involved or of which I am aware, separates us from most countries in the world.

We Americans are often stunned to learn that the access to clean water which most of us take for granted is not shared by many in the rest of the world. As reported by an extraordinary organization called “Charity: Water”, there are more than 663 million people in the world who live daily without access to clean water.

663 million people. Hard to fathom.

But Charity: Water is doing something about it. Armed with a powerfully inspirational goal to “end the water crisis in our lifetime”, Charity: Water collects donations and uses them to build community-owned water systems around the world. Since its 2006 inception, it has built over 23,000 such systems, delivering first-time-ever clean water to over 7 million people, in 24 countries in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. www.charitywater.org<http://www.charitywater.org>.

Remarkable. A great reminder of our capacity for ingenuity and kindness, and the goodness of which we are capable when we decide to bring to the rest of the world those things–like clean water–that we often take for granted.

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