Just Infrastructure for Safe Water and Sanitation

Clean water isn’t a commodity to be sold to only those who can pay. It’s a basic right our government must provide to all residents. Water represents purity in Islam. We need and appreciate clean water for all. Water is life.”

- Huda Alkaff | Founder and Director,
Wisconsin Green Muslims

Why do we need just infrastructure?

Clean drinking water and sanitation are human rights and public health necessities, yet millions of people across the U.S. are still living with toxic taps, dry wells, boil water notices, and sewage spills. And 2 million more live in houses without running water or flush toilets. Like many other environmental injustices, these infrastructure gaps and failures are concentrated in low-income communities of color.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) at last reversed decades of declining federal water spending. They include billions of dollars to replace lead pipes, test and treat PFAS “forever chemicals,” and extend water and wastewater service to rural and Tribal communities.

Investing in safe water pays major health and economic dividends, and creates jobs for communities impacted by historic disinvestment.

We have an opportunity with this burst of funding — and billions more that need to follow — to lay the groundwork for a just, sustainable water future.

Funding opportunities

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The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation in action

Dorothea Thurby, from left, Britany Archer and Johnson Bill refill empty bottles for a local resident while working at the water distribution site at the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.
Photo credit: Ryan Brennecke, Bend Bulletin

A new treatment plant for the Warm Springs Reservation

Families on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation have been living without safe, reliable water for years. During the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, residents were relying on bottled water deliveries to wash hands and stay hydrated. Then in 2022, the plant shut down because of an electrical fire.

Now, more than $23 million of BIL funds will at last make a new treatment plant possible to deliver clean water to more than 3,800 people.

Getting the lead out of 20,000 homes in Philadelphia, PA

$160 million of funding is on its way to replace 19 miles of lead pipes in Philadelphia. The city estimates 20,000 homes there receive water through lead service lines, and 1 in 16 children still test high for lead, with those in majority-Black low-income neighborhoods most at-risk.

Almost 40 years after Congress banned lead water pipes, an estimated 9.2 million homes across U.S. states territories still have them. But BIL funding is making it possible for communities to accelerate replacement in homes as well as schools and daycare centers, bringing us closer to a lead-free future.

Photo of the Philadelphia skyline
José Acosta and Luis Felipe Lujan, Presido residents, in front of water tanks in a truck working with a hose
Photo credit: Environmental Defense Fund

Water is on the way to Texas colonias

Settled in the 1950s and ‘60s, many colonias along the Texas-Mexico border still don’t have running water or sewer service, and instead rely on trucked-in water stored in plastic tanks for bathing and washing, and bottled water for drinking and cooking. Now a collaboration between local, nonprofit, and state leaders is bringing more than $4 million in funding to address drinking and wastewater needs in rural communities in Presidio County, Texas. Some of the funds will make it possible to dig deep wells that can access groundwater and then pipe it to homes.

Storytelling resources

To help move media and policymakers, we collaborated with cultural organizers and artists to develop artwork and media materials to communicate why we need smart investments for the human right to water and sanitation.

Share these graphics and get the social media toolkit to spread the word

Use these materials to tell the story of why we need Just Infrastructure to support the human right to water and sanitation.

Fact Sheet

Human Right to Water and Sanitation

Message guidance

Safe Water and Sanitation