Water didn’t appear to be a hot topic on anybody’s lips a few years ago. But in 2014, residents of Flint, Michigan found that their water supply contained hazardous levels of lead. Yes, lead — the same material that has been banned from home-building since 1978 due to dangerous toxin levels. The water coming from their taps was discolored and pungent. Nearly two years on, the residents of Flint are still reeling from the effects of the incident, now know as the Flint water crisis.

Safe Water

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While no fatalities were recorded, tens of thousands of children were injured as a result. Lead contamination was widespread. The problem has also been linked to a possible outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The crisis was the result of local authorities attempted to save money on water by changing sources. They had started using water from the Flint River, instead of the treated water they had been receiving from Detroit for half a century.

The crisis and its effects are still making the news to this day. So it’s not hard to see why the people of America are lobbying public officials to make water safety more of a priority than ever before. It’s strange to think that this is occurring in 2016 America. But perhaps we’ve been feeling too comfortable and confident in our water supply for too long.

The issue hasn’t merely been one of safety, either. The crisis has taken quite a financial toll. To date, an estimated total of $58 million has been sent on supplies, medical care and infrastructure repairs.

Thankfully, the voices of the American people are being heard. Representatives like Paul Tonko are supporting the Assistance, Quality and Affordability (AQUA) Act. This will increase funding for water infrastructure facilities in New York. But is enough being done on an international level?

Safe Water

While it’s not a heavy discussion point among the 2016s presidential hopefuls, it’s not an unrealistic wish. Water is an issue than transcends partisanship. The need for safe, ecologically-friendly water knows no boundaries, recognizes no state lines. several strong water infrastructure projects are on the go. Congress have recently passed a new Water Infrastructure Bill. There’s hope for the H20 dreams of America yet!

The new bill calls for the establishment of stronger, clearer criteria on which judge the quality of water and infrastructure. Higher quality data reporting and independent verification of that data are all part of the bill, as is an openness to public comment.

Of course, it requires the American people to push harder than ever for this to be properly enforced. We need to face the fact that the crisis in Flint has extended beyond Michigan. The water systems in America are aging. With billions of gallons of clean drinking water lost in the United States every day, we must take steps to increase safety and efficiency. Whoever the next President of the United States may be, we hope they don’t take our nation’s water supply safety for granted. It’s the same mistake many before them have been making.