Water is life.

It’s a simple statement that expresses the importance of a substance we all require to sustain our bodies. Yet two of the greatest challenges for our communities and our planet is providing access to and protecting the water we so desperately need. 

Water makes up roughly sixty percent of the human body. It keeps our skin healthy, lubricates our joints, aids our digestion, allows our kidneys to filter out the waste from what we eat and drink and promotes our overall health. Drinking water can even relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies.

Despite all these benefits, a 2013 study by the Institute of Medicine revealed that most Americans don’t take in enough water to keep their bodies from dehydration. And the consequences can be severe. Dehydration causes the body not to be able to function at peak health. The kidneys, in particular, suffer without enough of a daily supply of water. For them, dehydration can lead to the formation of kidney stones, or even potential kidney failure.

One of the reasons behind the failure to get enough water has to do with accessibility. Over one and a half million Americans don’t have running water in their homes or indoor plumbing. This lack of access to clean, drinkable water is especially dire in rural and low-income areas. One of the reasons for that is a lack of funding. According to Zoe Roller, Senior Program Manager for the US Water Alliance, “There has been a decline in federal funding for water infrastructure.” Without federal funding, small, rural communities simply don’t have the tax base to fund the needed infrastructure themselves. 

Accessibility isn’t the only problem with providing clean water sources for communities. Contamination is another issue. Communities with failing infrastructure may not have adequate wastewater treatment facilities. This leaves water supplies vulnerable to pollution that can contaminate groundwater. And waste products from the oil and gas industry also pose a threat to lakes and rivers which are sources of drinking water for communities. 

The protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline highlighted the dangers of using miles-long pipelines to transport crude oil across the country. Sunoco Logistics, the company which operates the pipeline, has a long history of oil spills that have damaged the environment. Having the Missouri River, which supplied drinking water for the people in the area, contaminated by gallons of crude oil threatened to add to the problem of safe drinking water for all the communities affected by such a spill. Protestors, who call themselves “water protectors” waged a bitter fight to protect the drinking water of their community. They continue to stand up for the right to clean drinkable water for all Americans.

Water is life. We need it. We can’t live without it. Protecting it is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, our communities and our planet.

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