The Flint Water Crisis that lasted from 2014 to 2019 may be one of the most notorious modern occurrences of a community experiencing polluted water and the problems that come with it. However, many communities across the U.S. struggle with maintaining accessibility to clean water, specifically in large, metropolitan cities but also in smaller rural communities, disproportionately impacting people of color and low-income households.
Providing something as essential as clean water for drinking and bathing seems as though it should be a nonstarter, but racist infrastructure exists that continuously puts people of color at a disadvantage.
The Journalist’s Resource reports that householders of color in the 50 most populous metropolitan areas in the U.S. are 34% more likely to lack piped water in comparison to white householders.
Along with this, the Census Bureau often underreports statistics on people of color and those without homes, meaning that the disparities seen between Black and white householders is likely worse than the public currently understands them to be. The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports that more than 40% of the homeless population is made up of African Americans, who only make up 13% of the general population, again pointing to the fact that people of color, specifically African Americans, are most deeply affected by plumbing poverty.
The next demographic most impacted by unequal access to clean water and plumbing are those living in rural areas, specifically those living in the Appalachian region. According to the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, out of 21 springs tested throughout five Appalachian states (Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee), 80% tested positive for E. Coli, suggesting fecal contamination of main water sources for those who do not have plumbing in remote, rural areas of this region.
While it seems like a given that most of the country’s water systems are funded by local economy and taxes, rural communities often simply do not have the means to create and maintain water services, as it can cost $50,000 to $100,000 to run water into homes depending on the size of the community.
The Appalachian Water Project reports that there are over 2.2 million Americans living without running water in the home, with central Appalachian families being some of the hardest hit, particularly in West Virginia. Even when a water source is available, more than two thirds of West Virginian water systems have some of the worst quality overall in the U.S.
There are no simple answers to the issue of access to quality water and plumbing in the U.S. past the general notions of further government funding. The question is always where this money will come from.
The answer could be much closer than one may think with some reallocation of discretionary funds that make up 1.6 trillion dollars of the national budget. This is imperative in order to get the most basic necessity of life to all human beings.
Meg Diehl is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Meg by tweeting her at @irlbug.
Assistant Opinion Editor