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Informational Resources

Reports Identifying Water Infrastructure, Resource, Funding, and Service Needs

Additional Information Resources


Still Living Without the Basics in the 21st Century:
Analyzing the Availability of Water and Sanitation Services in the United States (2004)

Stephen Gasteyer, Ph.D., Rahul T. Vaswani. Rural Community Assistance Partnership
Webpage: http://www.rcap.org/stillwithoutbasics
PDF: http://www.win-water.org/reports/RCAP_full_final.pdf

This publication is meant to increase the public’s understanding of the social, economic, and ecological issues surrounding the access to water and sanitation services in the U.S., and contribute to the debate about how to develop and structure policies for improving these services. It documents and analyzes, state by state, the availability of adequate water and sanitation service in U.S. homes, based on 2000 Census data, finding that more than 1.7 million people still lack basic plumbing facilities. While that number may seem statistically small, the challenges in their daily lives are huge. This report seeks to answer questions such as: What regions, states and counties are home to these people? Do they live in rural or urban areas? What are their ethnicities and socioeconomic status? Have their numbers changed over time, and why? What do policy makers need to understand, and what efforts should be undertaken, to improve the availability of water and sanitation services? Although the report is based on 2000 Census data, its conclusions and analyses still hold true today in 2015.

Water and Poverty in the United States: An Update (original 2007 study updated 2/26/2013)
James L. Wescoat, Jr., Lisa Headington, Rebecca Theobald

This study discusses the status of water and sanitation in the U.S., finding that contrary to reports indicating 100 percent access to drinking water and sanitation services, there are significant geographic areas that lack sufficient water services. People affected include the urban homeless, migrant workers, US-Mexico border residents, tribal populations, and people living in rural and remote areas. The report examines the connections between water and poverty along with two phenomena in the U.S.--widespread access to water for most citizens, and failure to recognize and provide services to an uncounted minority, asking “What national programs has the US established to improve water services for low-income groups?” and “What is the frequency and geographic distribution of local water and poverty problems?” They propose that the answers deserve international attention, and can offer lessons learned to other countries. The U.S. can learn from the international experience as well, especially regarding low-income innovations addressing water and poverty. This report is an update to the original study published in 2007 in Geoforum 38: 801-14.

Water Infrastructure Needs and Investment: Review and Analysis of Key Issues (Updated November 24, 2008)
Congressional Research Service Report for Congress
Claudia Copeland; Mary Tiemann

https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=OytKS5mUsCIC&oi=fnd&pg=PT3&dq=providing+water+treatment+infrastructure+ in+disadvantaged+communities&ots=BlZFR5iG8l&sig=ATog8IO4ofxiThOl5c_SgUCAyMw#v=onepage&q&f=false

This report, prepared for members of Congress, identifies issues relevant to water infrastructure investment. It addresses federal involvement in water infrastructure investment, the nature of problems to be solved, who will pay, and what is the federal role. It also examines mechanisms for delivering federal support including state-by-state allotment of federal funds.

Clean Water Laws are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering (September 12, 2009)
Charles Duhigg, New York Times, Toxic Water Series

News article from the New York Times’ Toxic Water series describing Clean Water Act violations in the U.S. that are not identified or punished, and the resulting water pollution, destruction of drinking water sources, interruption of water service, and public health impacts. The entire Toxic Water Series can be found at http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters. The series covers the worsening pollution of U.S. waters and regulators’ Response.

Appalachia Needs

Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure: An Analysis of Capital Funding and Funding Gaps (August 2005)
University of North Carolina Environmental Financing Center

This report uses data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Census Bureau and private credit-rating agencies to analyze conditions of water and wastewater services in the Appalachian Region. It offers an assessment of financial requirements and strategies for improving the quality of drinking water and wastewater services, especially in areas of Appalachia that face ongoing economic distress and deficiencies in these services.

California Needs

Reports from California State Assembly Legislative Hearings Addressing Drinking Water Issues in Disadvantaged Communities

The website provides background information, papers, and reports submitted to the Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials in conjunction with two hearings that addressed drought and contaminated drinking water. The Joint Oversight Hearing with Health Committee on Impact of the Drought on Vulnerable Communities’ Access to Drinking Water was held on February 18, 2014. The hearing about Contaminated Drinking Water in California’s Disadvantaged Communities was held on November 14, 2012.

Californians Without Safe Water and Sanitation: California Water Plan Update 2013
California Department of Water Resources with assistance from other state agencies, members of the Tribal Advisory Committee, and public stakeholders.

Provides an assessment of Californians without safe drinking water and/or adequate sanitation facilities, discusses the challenges facing small communities and tribal communities, and describes progress made since 2005, when the first Californians Without Safe Water report was prepared, including the passage of California’s AB 685, which establishes that every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes. Offers recommendations for helping to achieve safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for all Californians.

Mississippi Delta Needs

Filthy water and shoddy sewers plague poor Black Belt counties: Overflow of raw sewage poses serious health risks, including return of diseases thought eradicated in the US (June 3, 2015)
By Ashley Cleek, Al Jazeera America

News article about the sanitation problems in Alabama’s poor counties, including inefficient or non-existent sewer systems, in the region known as the Black Belt (due to its past as the state’s cotton capital). In some counties up to 80 percent of the people must finance their own wastewater treatment solutions. However, residents cannot afford the costs, and often the soil is not conducive to traditional onsite wastewater treatment methods. Under state law legal action, including issuing arrest warrants, can and have been taken against homeowners for not having a working septic tank. Some public health experts are concerned that tropical illnesses associated with poor sanitation, like hookworm, once thought eradicated in the U.S. are re-emerging in the region.

Not All Americans Have Enough Access to Water (March 17, 2010)
by Katti Gray

Provides a brief overview of problems facing Mississippi residents who lack access to water services, focusing on a family living in the Drew-Ruleville community in Sunflower County.

Colonias (U.S.-Mexico Border Region) Needs

U.S. Mexico Border Needs Assessment and Support Project: Phase 1 Scoping Assessment Report (April 2014)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have begun a joint initiative to develop approaches to estimate coverage gaps in water and waste disposal infrastructure on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border region and more detailed assessments in selected colonias. This project describes socio-economic conditions and water and wastewater needs in the colonias, and aims to pilot innovative approaches to assist the least served communities in gaining access to sustainable and appropriate infrastructure and developing a sustainable management entity to support such infrastructure over the long-term.

The Environmental, Economic and Health Status of Water Resources in the U.S.–Mexico Border Region (December 2012)
Fifteenth Report of the Good Neighbor Environmental Board (GNEB) to the President and Congress of the U.S.

The GNEB is an independent advisory committee to the U.S. President and Congress, addressing environment and infrastructure issues along the U.S.--Mexico border. This is its 15th yearly report, which focuses on water supply, water quality, and water treatment. The report provides information about water issues in the region especially in the context of climate conditions and extensive drought, and offers recommendations for addressing these issues.

A Drop in the Bucket: Ten Years of Government Spending on Water and Wastewater Infrastructure in Texas Colonias (December 2009)
A thesis paper presented by Masters of Science candidate Richard Rapier to Texas A&M University

This thesis provides the history and context of the Texas colonia issues, specifically addressing who provides funding for water and wastewater projects and the make-up of that federal and state assistance. It analyzes the development activities of the four largest government financial assistance programs supporting the colonias’ water and wastewater programs. Findings indicate that conventional understandings of where, what, and to whom government spending is directed are challenged by the data and analysis: there is more funding for wastewater infrastructure improvements than for water services, and municipal systems that extend their services into colonia areas receive greater allocations. Further, the report points out a lack of real coordination among federal agencies to ensure that the colonias received truly effective assistance. For example, the report states “The money didn’t always target the intended recipients...One example is the city of Edinburgh in Hidalgo County, which received an EDAP [Economically Distressed Areas Program] grant to provide water and wastewater service to 26 colonias while also bringing the same services to a new state prison. The prison portion of the project was completed in 18 months. The colonia portion took more than seven years (Carter and Ortolano, 2004).” The thesis recommends future financing needs and suggests ways the government could better measure the impact of this critical infrastructure to the colonias.

Thirsty Colonias: Determinants of Water Service Coverage in South Texas (October 2001)
Sheila Cavanagh, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

This discussion paper examines why some poor communities in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region have secured drinking water services and others have not. It finds that the most common explanations for lack of public utility service, which are poverty and the expense of connecting, provide an incomplete picture. The influence of institutional factors, specifically, the characteristics of potential water service providers, are at least as important as the characteristics of poor households in determining who receives service. This, in addition to the fact that Texas policies addressing inadequate water and sanitation for the state’s colonias do not differentiate between urban and rural communities, has policy implications for the state of Texas.

Undrinkable--Many along Texas border still live without clean, safe water (March 8, 2014)
Neena Satija and Alexa Ura, Texas Tribune

Along the Texas/Mexico border, nearly 90,000 people are believed to still live without running water. An untold number more--likely in the tens of thousands, but no one knows for sure--often have running water of such poor quality that they cannot know what poisons or diseases it might carry. “Some people have no idea that there’s still third-world conditions in the most powerful country in the world,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. This Texas Tribune article goes on to explain the conditions the people in this area face every day. While the problem is not new, little has been done that is effective. According to the article, “State and national governments launched massive efforts to solve it in the 1980s when the border’s population surges. They created huge institutions to funnel billions of dollars toward building treatment plants and pipelines. “But this has not solved the problem. Many people have been left behind--struggling for resources that most people in the U.S. take for granted.”

Don’t Drink the Water: In the Urban Colonias of the Greater Houston Area, the Water Stinks (December 2, 2005)
Bernstein, Jake. Texas Observer

When most Texans think about colonias, if they do at all, they probably envision squalid sun-bleached border communities marked by dirt roads and sewage-filled ditches. The Office of the Secretary of State defines a colonia as “a residential area along the Texas-Mexico border that may lack some of the most basic living necessities.” First among the missing necessities listed are “potable water and sewer systems.” It might come as a surprise then to learn that there are communities of Texans who live without these necessities residing within some of the state’s most affluent counties, hundreds of miles from the Rio Grande. In fact, the Texas Water Development Board estimates that 1.2 million Texans--just 200,000 of them in border areas--are in need of better water and wastewater systems and that providing those necessities will cost more than $4.5 billion.

Tribal Needs

FY2016 Indian Country Budget Request Report: Promoting Self-Determination, Modernizing the Trust Relationship
A Publication of the National Congress of American Indians

Identifies the scope of tribal water and wastewater needs and recommends budget requests from the U.S. Government in order for EPA tribal programs to receive sufficient resources to achieve parity with states. (Main website: http://www.ncai.org/resources/ncai-publications/indian-country-budget-request/fy2016)

Water Poverty Is a Crisis for Navajo Communities (December 30, 2013)
Laurel Morales, Fronteras: The Changing American Desk

News article about a water truck that delivers water to Navajo communities in New Mexico. Forty percent of Navajo have no running water. “It really is an incredible injustice,” says George McGraw, the founder of DIGDEEP, an organization that helps raise money to dig wells for these families. “If you’re born Navajo, you’re 67 times more likely not to have a tap or toilet in your house than if you’re born black, white, Asian, or Hispanic American.”