U.S. Water Alliance and the Northeast-Midwest Institute Co-host Briefing on Equitable Waters

“An Equitable Water Future: Opportunities for the Great Lakes Region,” a new report by the U.S. Water Alliance, was the topic of a Congressional briefing hosted by the U.S. Water Alliance and the Northeast-Midwest Institute on Tuesday, March 6. The briefing speakers were highlighted by Representative Bob Gibbs and Representative Gwyn Moore and also included several top utility, community, and philanthropic leaders. In addition to presenting the newly released report, the briefing highlighted the latest innovations from the Great Lakes Region that are forging progress in providing access to affordable and safe water to American families.

Representative Bob Gibbs introduced the briefing’s discussion on better water infrastructure and highlighted the importance of water equity for underprivileged communities in the Great Lakes Region. Representative Gibbs urged that Congress and other leaders step up and begin advocating for minority communities and their right to better water infrastructure and wastewater.

Representative Gwyn Moore echoed Representative Gibbs and further emphasized the importance of water equity in minority communities. The Congresswoman led her remarks with an African proverb, “Water has no enemies.” Moore also highlighted the lack of initiative from leaders which must change.

Radhika Fox, CEO of U.S. Water Alliance, presented the organization’s new report which analyzed water equity and infrastructure in the Great Lakes Region. The report contains the “Pillars of Water Equity,” including access to affordable and safe drinking water, and a call to maximize the community and economic benefits of water infrastructure investment. Radhika emphasized that water equity is an absolute priority of the Great Lakes Region and that existing problems in equity must be addressed.

Kevin Shafer, Executive Director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, highlighted similar concerns about the prominence of safe water inequity. During the briefing, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and Shafer were recognized for their efforts in improving safe water equity and safe water infrastructure by including women and minority businesses in district projects. The district has awarded 25% of its procurement awards to women and minorities since 2013.

Josina Morita, newly elected Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, focused on the importance of leveraging positions of influence to fight for clean water infrastructure for all communities and in particular underprivileged communities.  She called for the government to focus investments on creating water equity for economically disadvantaged communities in and around the Great Lakes Region.

SeMia Bray, Director of Emerald Cities Cleveland, also emphasized the vitality of clean water.  She highlighted that many parts of the Midwest water systems are struggling to provide clean water to families and struggling even moreso in minority communities and communities of color. She emphasized that water is a fundamental service and that legislators and leaders have a duty to be active and improve water infrastructure for these communities.

Elizabeth Cisar, Senior Program Officer for the Environment Program for the Joyce Foundation, noted the importance of understanding the new report and understanding what the fight for clean water means. She noted that the report is the first step toward identifying policies that can ensure safe drinking water for American communities and in particular those that are economically underprivileged. Cisar explained that with a collaborative effort from community leaders and legislators, water systems can be improved so that they deliver clean water to all communities in the region.