The US Water Crisis You Haven’t Heard About
Many Americans are currently experiencing a clean water crisis and you likely haven’t heard about it. The public perception of water crises rarely extends beyond Flint, MI, or Capetown, SA. While these cities have experienced and are experiencing clear problems with access to clean water, rural Americans are experiencing a water crisis significantly larger than either of these cities.
There were 5,000 health violations issued against water systems in 2015. 50% of these violations were against water systems serving less than 500 people. When you combine these systems, millions of Americans lack access to safe or clean drinking water. The reason rural Americans face a crisis in access to clean water is often rooted in the industries that supply a town with jobs. Coal towns are often affected by spills from waste retainment ponds while agricultural fertilizers slide off the land and contaminate waterways. It is also worth mentioning that some rural Americans, like those in Lowndes County, AL, are the result of racist policies and funding.
Although polluters are often large-scale industries and the affected communities are distributed across the country, clear solutions for this problem exist. Many rural water systems are underfunded and, therefore, not maintained. Poorly maintained systems decay, creating an entry point for contaminants. We can solve this part of the problem by providing funding for the repair and maintenance of these systems. Further, we have technologies that can improve the efficiency of water-capture systems to reduce stress on the water infrastructure.
However, there is no solution here without tackling the pollution sources. Agriculture must have limits set for the use and disposal of chemical fertilizers, and coal companies must be regulated and held accountable for improperly maintained waste. Without addressing the source of pollution, any effort to address this problem will be treating the symptoms of the problem, not the cause.
To read more about the rural clean water crisis, read The New Republic’s article here.