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Water for the World Act 2014 Signed Into Law

New law prioritizes and codifies efforts to provide WASH in areas of greatest need.

 

In the final days of the 113th Congress, both houses passed a bill that will help direct U.S. foreign assistance to WASH programs to improve access to safe water and sanitation for the world’s most vulnerable people. President Barack Obama enacted the bill with his signature on December 19th.

The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act (Pub.L. 113-289) seeks to strengthen implementation of an earlier Act (2005) through better agency strategy, coordination, prioritization, and reporting.

According to a statement released by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D- OR), a co-sponsor of the bill, “The legislation is historic, requiring the first ever U.S. Global Water Strategy, outlining how the U.S. can help the most vulnerable, while at the same time preventing water-related conflict.”

Along with co-sponsor Rep. Ted Poe (R- TX) and Senators Dick Durbin (D- IL) and Bob Corker (R- TN), the bill made the improbable journey from introduction to enactment through one of the least productive Congresses in American history. Displaying rare bipartisan cooperation, several Senators and Representatives and their staff played important roles in moving the bill through committees and bringing it to a positive vote. The bill passed by unanimous consent in the House of Representatives and by voice vote in the Senate.

“We are very grateful for all the hard work that has gone into seeing this law enacted,” says Sada Andrews, a Senior Advocate at Lifewater. “Getting legislators to spend political capital on a bill that helps the poor but doesn’t directly affect their constituents can be difficult, but here we have to applaud their willingness to prioritize the needs of the people who lack access to basic human needs.”

Over 748 million people do not have access to safe water and 2.5 billion do not have improved sanitation, a condition that keeps people in a cycle of poor health, insecurity, and economic vulnerability.

Rep. Poe (R-TX) stated, “This bill uses taxpayer dollars more efficiently and effectively and makes water the priority it should be in any development discussion,” adding that “everyone should have access to clean water, and no one on Earth should be assaulted trying to obtain it.”

By improving the capacity of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to direct resources for WASH assistance and coordinating USAID and State Dept. WASH efforts, implementing partners like Lifewater hope to see policies and programs that help reach those in need in Africa and Asia receive safe water and sanitation. USAID and Lifewater worked together on programs reaching thousands in southern Ethiopia.

Lifewater International is a non-profit Christian water development organization dedicated to effectively serving vulnerable children and families by partnering with underserved communities to overcome water poverty. With experience in more than 40 countries since 1977, Lifewater serves people of all faiths, focusing on contextually appropriate water sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) development. For more information, contact Christine Zurbach (czurbach@lifewater.org) or visit www.lifewater.org. Lifewater International is based in San Luis Obispo, CA.