The COVID-19 pandemic has not only disrupted the social and economic realities of our communities, but also undermined some of the basic infrastructure we depend on. Our water infrastructure has been at the heart of this realization; its importance to health, hygiene, and safety has never been more obvious, yet millions of disadvantaged and vulnerable households still lack reliable and affordable access to water.  Meanwhile, climate change has fueled extreme droughts, fires, and floods that have disrupted or destroyed this essential infrastructure. COVID-19 has exposed the continued neglect of our water infrastructure, magnifying long-standing social and environmental stressors as well as economic inequities.

State and local leaders manage most of our water needs, and many recognize the gravity of its challenges, despite facing massive fiscal constraints due to COVID-19. But federal leaders have not shown the same urgency. As Congress debates recovery strategies and stimulus efforts, water should be a bigger part of the conversation. Water can serve as a lever to achieve greater economic equity and access, environmental resilience, and technological innovation, among other benefits. Now is the time for Washington to elevate water as a core issue to drive a lasting recovery.

In a recent webinar hosted by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, we discussed a set of practical solutions to address the gaps in water infrastructure and advance new innovations. Below are five key areas of intervention that federal leaders should be focusing on.

  1. Boosting water equity and affordability
  2. Amplifying water in climate discussions
  3. Breaking down governance silos
  4. Investing in the water solutions of today and tomorrow
  5. Expanding green careers

Read the full article about water infrastructure by Newsha Ajami and Joseph Kane at Brookings.