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Water key factor in U.S. approach to better world

Water key factor in U.S. approach to better world

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THE ISSUE: Water for the World Act; OUR OPINION: U.S. priority should be assisting anywhere, everywhere with people having good drinking watrer

The focus of so many weeks this summer has been water in the form of rain and its impact. This past Monday, our print and online editions focused again on water, only this time the story was drinking water. Specifically, the report was on a private firm sampling water in areas served by the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities.

The company is hoping to market its equipment designed to condition water beyond the levels provided by utilities. In Orangeburg, we took particular note of their efforts and inquired with DPU, which on two occasions has been honored for having the best drinking water in the state.

The city of Orangeburg utility spent time with us, allowing us to show the world via words, photographs and video how it goes about providing “pristine” water that comes from the North Edisto River. Revisit the coverage with this editorial at TheTandD.com.

For its part, the company marketing its water-treatment systems says it is not questioning the quality of water, assuming at a minimum that all drinking water meets safety and Environmental Protection Agency standards.

And there’s where the people of Orangeburg and all over our country can be thankful: Our drinking water does conform to safety standards and must continue to do so. It’s a top national priority.

Abundant and safe drinking water is no small element in the American story of greatness. And by contrast, one of the greatest drags on world progress is the shortage of clean drinking water in so many places.

One of the best priorities of our nation’s foreign policy should be assisting anywhere and everywhere with people having good drinking water.

Enter Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., as congressional leaders introducing the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2013.

“Water is key to just about every kind of development,” Poe said. “If we don’t get water right, it doesn’t matter how many schools we build or vaccines we pass out — we might as well throw our money down the drain. This bill is about using taxpayer dollars more effectively by making water a priority in any development discussion — like it should be.”

The Water for the World Act would build upon the Sen. Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, which established access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a priority of America’s foreign policy. The Water for the Poor Act has made a tangible difference in the world. As a result of USAID investments, 3.8 million people gained improved access to drinking water and 1.9 million improved access to sanitation in FY 2011 alone.

Blumenauer said, “Since Congress passed the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, the U.S. has become a global leader on efforts to increase access to clean water and sanitation, developing and implementing some of the most innovative approaches to help those in greatest need. We must not only secure this progress, but work to refine and focus the efforts at USAID and the Department of State by passing the Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2013.”

In recent weeks, Congress has reaffirmed its commitment to U.S. global water programs. The House Appropriations Committee voted to restore FY 14 funding under the Water for the Poor Act to its presequestration level of $315 million. Shortly afterward, the Senate State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee approved $405 million for water and sanitation programs for FY 14 — an increase of nearly 30 percent over current funding.

Finally, the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing yesterday on “ The Impact of U.S. Water Programs on Global Health.”

CEO John Oldfield of WASHadvocates, a Washington-based organization, presented ideas and recommendations from a coalition of water, sanitation, and hygiene experts. During his testimony, he stated, “You will recall that our intelligence community in 2012 identified water as a potential source of significant security challenges to this country over the next decade. This is a grave problem, but for the most part, we know today how to solve it. And it is important that it be solved: every dollar invested in water and sanitation in developing countries returns at least $4 for that $1 investment.”

“The U.S. government and our partners should not only be drilling wells and building latrines. We should be focused on getting the job done – that is our exit strategy. So I encourage Congress to provide the oversight necessary so that these projects continue to function long after the technical phase of the effort,” Oldfield said.

The Water for the World Act is an approach with enormous positive impacts on health, school attendance and retention, food security and nutrition, environmental quality, women’s rights and economic development across the globe. It calls for an increase in monitoring and evaluation of projects, particularly after the implementation phase, and ensuring that programming is targeted to help the world’s poorest.

The act would also meet the demands of the 2012 National Intelligence Estimate on Global Water Security, which acknowledges that reduced poverty and improved health globally have a positive impact on Americans at home.

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