Senate Passes Durbin-Corker Water For The World Act

Bill to improve access to clean drinking water without spending new money or creating new bureaucracy heads to President Obama for signature

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — The Senate today unanimously passed The Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2014, bipartisan legislation to significantly improve access to clean water and sanitation around the world. The bill is sponsored by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bob Corker (R-TN), and cosponsored by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The bill was passed earlier this month by the House of Representatives, where it is sponsored by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Ted Poe (R-TX).    

“Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services sickens and kills thousands of children every day, and leads to poverty across the globe,” Durbin said. “But this is no longer simply a global health and development issue—it’s a long-term problem that increasingly threatens our national security. The Senate agreed unanimously and passed this legislation today and I hope the President will quickly sign it before the crisis reaches a devastating tipping point.”

“I'm pleased lawmakers from both chambers agree that investing in water can make the most of existing foreign aid resources. These programs bring life-saving water and sanitation to vulnerable people around the globe, helping to support improved health and stability in these communities,” said Corker.

Nearly 750 million people around the world lack access to clean, safe water and nearly 2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation—many living on less than $2 a day. Rapid industrialization and population and economic growth continue to put pressure on global water supplies, particularly in developing nations. Water issues are no longer isolated problems, but are increasingly linked 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 Senator Paul Simon, who more than a decade ago wrote the book, Tapped Out, which warned of the world’s looming clean water crisis.

The Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2014 will make better use of existing Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) funds, strengthen WASH programming, and ensure the greatest impact on communities worldwide, without spending new money or creating new bureaucracy.

With the goal of increasing access to clean drinking water and sanitation, the bill would:

  • Ratify the existing capacity in the U.S. government to ensure WASH remains a policy priority, and that expertise is available at USAID and State Department headquarters, and in country-level USAID missions, to guide implementation of effective and sustainable WASH programs;
  • Sharpen the criteria for choosing high-priority countries to ensure that limited funds are directed to the countries and communities most in need, recognizing evidence that the poorest people benefit most from receiving WASH services;
  • Increase integration of WASH programs with other critical interventions, including child survival, global health, food security and nutrition, and gender equality, to increase their efficiency and impact; 
  • Advance best practices of effective aid, such as improved monitoring and evaluation and a focus on leveraging non-Federal partnerships and funds;

Improve the strategic approach to international safe water, sanitation and hygiene, and to water resource management, by providing guidance that builds on USAID’s own Water and Development Strategy (May 2013), such as by requiring transparency in country priorities, the results of field programs, and regular reviews of progress using recognized metrics.