Lack of water access isn’t just due to drought

For these Americans, it is always Day Zero.
Water poverty affects nearly 1.6 million people in the United States, but it remains a stubbornly invisible crisis.
Today, African Americans are twice as likely as whites to live without modern plumbing.
On the Navajo Nation, where I work, 40 percent of the nearly 170,000 residents still haul water home in bottles or buckets, often at great expense.
Even here in California more than 1 million people rely on public drinking water systems that have violated state safety standards, threatening their health.
The most comprehensive data we have on U.S. water poverty comes from the Census Bureau, but it is maddeningly unspecific and often inaccurate.
The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey tells us there are about 1.6 million Americans living in housing that lacks “complete plumbing facilities.” That could mean they don’t have a flush toilet or a bathtub or shower.
It doesn’t tell us how communities cope with these challenges every day.
Most important, census data doesn’t explain why these communities still don’t have access to water and sanitation when nearly every other American does.
Instead of waiting for the next Cape Town or California water crisis to wonder, “Will we still have water tomorrow?” we should be asking right now, “Who needs water today?” George McGraw is the founder of Dig Deep, a nonprofit working to bring clean running water to every American.

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