Policy Innovations to Secure Drinking Water for All

Resource Type: 
Publication Date: 
June, 2020
Member Reference: 
Water Foundation
Major Issue: 
Environmental Health Basics
Issue Area: 
Environment (Air, Water, Land)
Geographic Focus: 
Sacramento River Bend Outstanding Natural Area, Bob Wick / Bureau of Land Management.

The Water Foundation, in partnership with the US Water Alliance, water leaders across the country, and support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation released the new report, Policy Innovations to Secure Drinking Water for All to help advance a deeper national dialogue on how communities, advocates, utilities, policymakers, and funders can collaborate to achieve and sustain the human right to water.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and movement for racial justice are radically changing our economy and society. In the U.S., racial injustice is ingrained in the systems that shape who has safe, clean, and affordable water. Recent reports, such as those by NRDC, the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, and Coming Clean, as well as DigDeep and US Water Alliance, have underscored how Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color are most likely to live without running water or with toxic tap water as a result of redlining, disinvestment, and other aspects of structural inequity.

This new report, based on regional roundtables with nearly 100 state and tribal water experts, advocates, and organizers in Atlanta, Detroit, Sacramento, and Santa Fe, found that despite regional differences, leaders face many shared challenges. And that winning coalitions and campaigns have approached drinking water challenges in some similar ways.

  • Start with community-based solutions;
  • Harness data to tell a compelling experience- and evidence-based story;
  • Build a unifying vision and coalition; and
  • Cultivate political will and leadership.

One key recommendations to the philanthropic community coming out of these roundtables is that to scale these successes, more support is needed for organizing, lobbying, and political activities, which are necessary for holding decision makers accountable and broadening who makes water decisions. Private foundations have far more capacity to invest in political advocacy than they are currently using, and this is the time to activate all the tools we have to their greatest extent.

Additional information is available in the Water Foundation's Securing Safe Drinking Water for All: A Guide for Funders Seeking Equitable & Sustainable Solutions, June 2019.


Juliet Christian-Smith