Group, Members of Congress, and Leading Mayors Mark World Water Day With Events Nationwide Demanding Washington Act

For Immediate Release

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Christine Chester, 617-695-2525
Kristin Urquiza, 617-695-2525

Group, Members of Congress, and Leading Mayors Mark World Water Day With Events Nationwide Demanding Washington Act

WASHINGTON - Today, World Water Day, Corporate Accountability International released Public Water Works!, a report finding people across party lines overwhelmingly support the critical need to invest in the nation’s public water systems. Public water directors, faith and advocacy organizations, celebrities and more than 30 mayors used events nationwide including one today in Baltimore in front of city hall to call on the Obama Administration and Congressional leadership to act on the report’s findings and recommendations. U.S. public water systems currently face a $23 billion per year investment gap.

“As this report finds, in a time of economic uncertainty and political partisanship, people across the U.S. are sure of this: public water works,” said Corporate Accountability International’s Executive Director Kelle Louaillier. “By ceasing to neglect our most essential public service, we can create jobs, grow the economy and help safeguard the health of generations to come.”

Public Water Works! documents how, over the last 35 years, the federal commitment to public water systems has gone from covering 78 percent of clean water spending to a paltry three percent today. In fiscal year 2010 federal appropriations reached a 16 year high of $1.4 billion – less than one-tenth of what was needed to close the annual water infrastructure investment gap.

Further, the report highlights the fact that closing the investment gap would generate $265.6 billion in economic activity and create close to 1.9 million jobs over the next five years.  

Reinvestment could also spare businesses $734 billion in costs and sales lost due to unreliable water infrastructure. This is not to mention that capital investment in water creates:

  • more jobs than any other infrastructure sector;
  • 16 percent more jobs than equal spending to reduce payroll taxes;
  • almost 40 percent more jobs than an across-the-board tax cut; and
  • more than five times as many jobs as temporary business tax cuts.

“Clean water and sanitation are critical to civilization,” said George S. Hawkins, General Manager of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority. “Yet the public investment in water and sewer infrastructure does not reflect that importance. This report demonstrates the strong economic benefits that water and sewer capital projects bring to a region. The time to invest is now, or we’ll certainly pay later.”

Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak joined mayors and public officials from Chattanooga and Tallahassee to San Francisco and Des Moines in urging the Obama Administration and Congress to reinvest in public water systems. Congressional leaders similarly circulated a Dear Colleague in the House of Representatives calling for immediate action to restore the nation’s commitment to its water supply.

“It’s time Washington placed the same value on the tap that the American people do,” said Mayor Rybak. “Just as communities and businesses reap the benefits of public investments in a strong public education system, everyone benefits from investments in public water systems. We can’t do business today, nor guarantee the health of our workforce, without clean drinking water and sanitation. Rebuilding our public water systems starting today will create good, much-needed jobs, and will put in place the long-term infrastructure that families and businesses both need to thrive.” 

The same poll found 71 percent of people in the U.S. trust local governments over private corporations to provide public water, including 81 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Independents and 56 percent of Republicans. Seizing on slimming budgets, the water industry has advocated privatization of public water systems, primarily in the form of so-called “public-private partnerships.” Public Water Works! analyzes the failings of privatization that help explain the public’s conviction that water is better off under public control and management. 

“Drinking water systems provide a critical public health function and are essential to life, economic development and growth. New solutions are needed for critical drinking water and wastewater investments over the next several decades. There is a bipartisan consensus that strong federal support and investment are crucial to ensuring the continued health of our nation’s water systems and of our communities,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D - MD), Chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Additional statements of support:

Mayor Sam Adams, Portland, Ore.
“As Portlanders enjoy the benefits of a wise water investment made 120 years ago, it is incumbent upon us to champion investment in public water systems that will serve us for the next 100 years. Public water systems preserve the long-term viability of a most essential shared resource. Investing in the public water system also grows the economy at large, creating green jobs for workers from field technicians to engineers and accountants.”

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
“The Federal government must be a better partner to communities struggling to repair and upgrade their drinking water and sewer infrastructure “There is bipartisan agreement that the status quo is unsustainable and that unreliable infrastructure is already costing American businesses and families billions of dollars a year. This World Water Day, our nation’s leaders have the opportunity to come together to support the public service we cannot do without.”

Mayor Vincent Gray, Washington, D.C.
“During these tough economic times, our government should be spending scarce public dollars on projects that provide vital public services and grow the economy at large rather than the bottom lines of a handful of corporations. Investment in public water is one of the wisest investments we could make, because it not only safeguards our most vital resource for our children, but it also creates the kinds of jobs we need right now – green jobs available to people from a wide variety of areas of expertise and a wide variety of educational attainment levels.”

Ed Harrington, General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
“We can’t do business today, nor guarantee the future health of our cities, without providing access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Cities will only be able maintain the high-quality, round-the-clock services essential to safeguarding public health and the environment with support of investments in our water and sewer infrastructure.”  

Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco, Ca.
"San Francisco is already investing $4.6 billion to improve the seismic and water reliability of the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System. This historic infrastructure program has been successful in creating jobs, supporting our regional economy, training our local workforces and preserving the long-term viability of the drinking water system that 2.6 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area depend on."

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
“The public is thirsty for priority investment in the nation’s public water systems and won’t be satiated by short-term promises that fail to benefit the community as a whole. The need is now and the commitment is one we can no longer kick down the road. This World Water Day our nation’s leaders have the opportunity to dedicate the public support required to the public service we cannot do without.” 

Mayor Kitty Piercy, Eugene, Ore.
“Mayors are championing investment in public systems since these systems provide needed drinking water, create green jobs and preserve the long-term viability of our most essential shared resource. It’s a win-win equation.”

Mayor Angel Taveras, Providence, R.I.
"Making the investment in protecting our water infrastructure now benefits everyone. It makes our system safer, more efficient, and sustainable, and will also keep costs down in the future," said.

To read the full report, view the open letter to President Obama and Members of Congress, and get more information on Corporate Accountability International’s Public Water Works! campaign, visit www.PublicWaterWorks.org.

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Corporate Accountability International has been waging winning campaigns to challenge corporate abuse for more than 30 years. We were there at the beginning of this movement to demand direct corporate accountability to public interests and have been at its forefront ever since.

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