Durbin and Corker's Water for the World Act Passes the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – The Water for the World Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, sending the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.  The bill is cosponsored by Senators Reid (D-NV), Roberts (R-KS), Cardin (D-MD), Isakson (R-GA), and Leahy (D-VT).


“Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is a right that everyone in the world ought to enjoy but too few are able to realize,” Durbin said. “Water access is no longer simply a global health and development issue; it is a long-term threat that is increasingly becoming a national security issue. I hope the Senate can pass this legislation before this problem reaches a devastating tipping point.”


“As a fiscal conservative, I realize the urgent need to dramatically reduce federal spending and be more efficient with our resources – especially as it relates to our limited foreign aid budget.  That means better focusing, targeting and coordinating our efforts to achieve results without authorizing more funding, which is exactly what the Water for the World Act does,” Corker said. “A lack of clean water leads to the deaths of 1.8 million people a year – 90 percent of them children.  It stifles economic growth, keeps women and girls from going to work and school, and contributes to political unrest that threatens our national security. For many reasons, I believe water is one of the wisest places we can focus our foreign aid.”


The Water for the World Act bill builds on the success of the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act by placing clean water in the forefront of America’s development priorities, seeking to reach 100 million people around the world with sustainable first time access to clean water and sanitation within six years of enactment.


Almost one billion people in the world lack access to safe drinking water and two of every five people live without basic sanitation services. Rapid industrialization, climate change, and population and economic growth will continue to put pressure on global water supplies, particularly in developing nations.  Such water issues can no longer be seen as isolated problems, but must instead be viewed as factors contributing to regional tensions, global health, child and maternal mortality, and economic growth. 


The Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 made access to safe water and sanitation for developing countries a specific policy objective of the United States Foreign Assistance Program. The Act was named after the late Paul Simon, who ten years ago wrote the book, Tapped Out, which warned of the world’s looming clean water crisis.


The Water for the Poor Act already made a difference in the world: last year alone the U.S. helped provide nearly 2 million people with first time access to an improved source of drinking water and more than 1.5 million people to improved sanitation.


Building on the progress achieved through the Water for the Poor Act, Senator Durbin first introduced the Paul Simon Water for the World in March of 2009. That bill passed the Senate in the fall of 2010, but failed to pass the House of Representatives.


With the goal of reaching 100 million people with first time access to clean drinking water and sanitation, the Durbin-Corker Water for the World Act would do the following:


  • Target underdeveloped countries with focused initiatives to improve access to clean water and sanitation;


  • Foster global cooperation on research and technology development, including regional partnerships among experts on clean water;


  • Provide technical assistance and capacity-building to develop expertise within countries facing water and sanitation challenges;


  • Provide seed money for the deployment of clean water and sanitation technologies;


  • Strengthen the human infrastructure at USAID and the State Department to implement clean water and sanitation programs effectively and to ensure that water receives priority attention in our foreign policy efforts; and  


  • Includes a 25% nonfederal fund cost share provision to leverage philanthropic and other donor support for the programs


The Water for the World Act represents a robust U.S. contribution to the Millennium Development Goal on water, which is to reduce by 50 percent the proportion of the world population without safe water and sanitation by 2015.