Announcement of USAID's First-ever Global Water and Development Strategy

As Prepared for Delivery

This is an historic day in the long fight against global poverty and disease and conflict – a fight that my visionary predecessor Senator Paul Simon started long before I joined this institution. 


In the 111th Congress, Senator Corker and I introduced the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act in the Senate.  Congressman Blumenauer introduced the same bill in the House. 


The legislation passed the full Senate in late 2010 with broad bipartisan support.  While it did not pass in the House, the legislation has served as a catalyst for tremendous progress on the key goals of the legislation.    


Specifically, USAID now has an Office of Water, a Senior Coordinator for Water, and broad bipartisan support in the appropriations committees of both chambers of Congress for clean water and sanitation programs for the world’s poor. 


And today, USAID announces a new and ambitious USAID strategy for water and sanitation – a strategy that mirrors components of the Water for the World Act. 


Senator Bob Corker and Congressman Earl Blumenauer were my lead partners in this effort and I am delighted to also see Senators Isakson and Coons and Congressman Poe who have also been notable champions on these issues.  All their efforts have been invaluable and I thank them for their help.


Achieving the First Millennium Goal:  Water


In 2005 Congress passed the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act. 


The Water for the Poor Act was the first law ever to make water and basic sanitation a top priority for all US foreign assistance.


It was also the first time the United States had written into law our commitment to any of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.


Last year, the world achieved the Millennium Goal of reducing by half the proportion of people in the world without access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation.  That is the first, and so far only, Millennium Goal we have achieved.


What does that tell us?  It tells us that with coordinated, global action and U.S. leadership, we can change the conditions that keep billions of people in this world imprisoned in poverty.


Building on past successes


USAID’s new Global Water and Development Strategy will build on those successes.


The coordinated plan to make water and sanitation a top development priority was the primary goal of the Paul Simon Water for the World Act.


I thank Administrator Shah for acting so quickly to develop that strategy.


This new US Water and Development Strategy will help lift poor people around the world out of conflict and poverty.  It is smart and strategic.  It builds on our past successes and makes use of new breakthroughs in science and technology.


It will save water and it will save lives. 


Many still without


We have made progress.  But there are still almost 1 billion people around the world who lack access to clean water, and at least 2.5 billion more people lack access to adequate sanitation.


Every day in the developing world, 5,000 children die from water-borne diseases.


Millions of poor children miss school every day because they have to walk for hours to find water for their families, or they are sick from drinking dirty water.  Girls and woman suffer most when this happens because they are the water carriers of the world.


A smart investment


For people who say America can’t afford to invest in clean water for the world, I would point out that experts in the Pentagon and elsewhere have called the world water shortage a real and growing threat to America’s own security.


In fact, you only had to read New York Times columnist Tom Friedman’s devastating piece this weekend about how drought and water mismanagement contributed to Syria’s bloody civil war to understand this serious point.


We also know that every dollar we invest in clean water and basic sanitation yields $8 in benefits.  People are healthier; kids stay in school, food is safer, AIDS drugs and other critical health treatments are able to work.


Success story: Wells in Haiti


During my last visit to Haiti, I saw inexpensive wells being built by an organization called Gheskio. 


Those simple but life-saving wells were paid for by USAID.  They are bringing safe water to hundreds of thousands of residents in Port-au-Prince. 


USAID’s new Global Water and Development Strategy will help bring water – the most basic of human needs – to millions of people around the globe.


I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress, with Administrator Shah, Global Water Coordinator Chris Holmes and the global water community to making sure this new plan has the support to succeed.


The way to douse the flames of global poverty and disease and conflict is not more fire, it is clean water.