Flint Crisis Spurs National Dialogue, Water Sector Responds

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The unfolding drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan continues to receive significant national media attention, and serves as an important reminder to all Americans about the fundamental importance of safe and reliable water treatment.  As the facts in Flint continue to unfold, all can agree that the residents of Flint deserve much better and that there was a core breakdown in what should have been a local-state-federal partnership aimed at protecting the residents of Flint and the basic access to safe water.

NACWA applauds the response by both the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) to the Flint situation.  AWWA’s recent statement to the press and the messages both organizations have conveyed to the media and their members have been measured and effective.  They have done an excellent job explaining both the uniqueness of the Flint crisis but also the need to address the affordability and investment challenges that exist in Flint and in urban and rural communities across the country – especially those with declining populations.

All organizations agree that the most imperative task is to ensure the residents of Flint have access to safe drinking water and, over time, a renewed confidence that their water is safe.  NACWA is prepared to do anything we can to assist our drinking water colleagues in achieving that goal.

Regardless of the root cause of the crisis, at a national level Flint has reignited interest from policy-makers and key stakeholder groups in addressing our aging water infrastructure challenges and to ensure approaches that allow for smarter, prioritized and integrated investments in our drinking water and clean water infrastructure.  Members of Congress have been reaching out to NACWA and other water sector organizations seeking to introduce legislation to address the Flint crisis and broader water infrastructure concerns.

NACWA, AWWA, AMWA, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the National Association of Water Companies (NAWC) are already working together on projects to shed light on what stands in the way of communities paying the true value of water and the need for a sustainable local-state-federal partnership to address current policy and funding/financing shortfalls. The issue of addressing low-income ratepayer challenges in particular is garnering increased attention from Congress and EPA, and NACWA is working to assess the national breadth of these challenges and to develop viable policy solutions.  Only by working together to advance viable and innovative solutions – with a focus on ensuring the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts can address new 21st century challenges — can we succeed.

NACWA will continue to closely monitor developments in Flint in the days and weeks ahead and coordinate with our drinking water colleagues.  In our view, however, the bottom line is clear – it is imperative for all of us at the local, state and national levels to do all we can to regain the confidence of the residents of Flint but also to minimize the likelihood that a disaster like this occurs again.

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