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Acknowledging the Water Scarcity Crisis

Across the United States, water systems fail because of pollution, low funding and aging infrastructure within impoverished, rural and minority communities. Climate change expert Madison Condon states that in 2015, 9% of water systems violated water quality standards, exposing 21 million people to unhealthy drinking water. Additionally, according to the article, “Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan,” two million Americans lack complete access to running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater services.

These issues are most prevalent in low-income rural communities, communities of color, and tribal communities. African-American and Latino households are twice as likely to lack indoor plumbing compared to white households, while indigenous households are 19 times more likely. Condon also states that 12% of people in rural areas report unsafe drinking water. Many water supply systems are outdated, composed of corroding water pipes that leak lead and copper into the drinking supply. Pollutant levels are also much higher within farming communities where agricultural waste seeps into the groundwater.

Some have suggested privatizing water infrastructure. Others retort that privatization fails in practice, as communities have to shoulder tripled or quadrupled water prices to attract private companies who charge 59% more on average than local governments. Current funding is inadequate to address this crisis, with just $2.8 billion allocated in 2019, which is a small percentage of what it once was. With climate change, aging infrastructure, water contamination and rising costs converging on Americans, this challenge is more important to solve than ever before. 


Grace Madden was a Social Issues intern at Our National Conversation during the Fall 2021 Semester. 


McGraw, George, and Radhika Fox. “Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan.”, 2019,

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