Pacific Institute Launches Water and Climate Equity Strategy for United States

Collaborative Research Will Assess How Climate Change Will Impact Water Security for Frontline Communities and Solutions for Equitable Water Resilience

Oakland, California — July 11, 2022 — The Pacific Institute, a global nonpartisan water think tank working to catalyze the transformation to water resilience by 2030, today launched its new Water and Climate Equity strategy. Through research and outreach, this long-term strategy will address the impacts of climate change on water security for frontline communities, including rural communities, low-income communities, and communities of color, across the United States.

The work will provide rigorous evidence-based research and climate-resilient strategies for frontline communities. Research will focus on the lack of fulfillment of the Human Right to Water across the United States. More than 2.2 billion people globally lack access to safely managed drinking water. While the Human Right to Water is formally recognized by the United Nations and the State of California, the United States has not formalized water as a human right at the federal level.

“Millions of people in the United States still lack access to clean water, lack basic plumbing, or rely on water systems with safety violations. Frontline communities often endure the worst of this water insecurity, with disproportionate impacts to low-income communities, communities of color, Indigenous communities, and rural areas,” said Dr. Shannon McNeeley, Senior Researcher and Water and Climate Equity Lead for the Pacific Institute. “Working collaboratively, this work will focus attention on how to ensure the Human Right to Water is attained equitably and by all across the country, with a specific focus on how climate change will impact water security for the most marginalized and overburdened communities.”

To implement the strategy, the Pacific Institute is already working closely with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), the Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN), and DigDeep.

“Our hope is to highlight stories of rural communities and their water systems’ experiences with climate change,” said Bobby Cochran, Chief Strategy and Knowledge Officer for RCAP. “Through this work, we really want to understand all of the challenges the communities and rural water systems face, what they do every day to overcome these challenges, and their successes.”

“Communities that are low income, Indigenous, or people of color already suffer disproportionately from lack of access to safe, reliable, and affordable water and sewage systems,” said Betsy Taylor, Executive Director of LiKEN. “Escalating climate change threatens to dramatically increase these inequities.”

“We now know that more than 2.2 million people in the United States still don’t have taps or toilets at home, but with the climate crisis intensifying, there are more questions to be answered,” said George McGraw, Founder and CEO of DigDeep. “How will climate change impact our water and wastewater systems? Which communities are most at risk of falling into the ‘water access gap’ in the future? Perhaps most importantly, what can we do to help vulnerable communities adapt? Partnering with the Pacific Institute will help us to answer these important questions and others.”

Co-designed research conducted in collaboration with partnering communities and organizations will analyze how climate change, as a risk multiplier, will intensify water-related risks for marginalized communities; the impacts of climate change specifically on small and medium water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) systems; the distributional effects and equity of related environmental policy; and water-related climate change preparedness.

The plan builds on the Pacific Institute’s longstanding work supporting the establishment of the Human Right to Water and research on water equity issues. The Pacific Institute focuses its water research in three areas: nature-based solutions, water efficiency and reuse, and water and climate equity.

The Water and Climate Equity strategy may be expanded beyond the United States during future years, building on the Pacific Institute’s global water research and partnerships. For more information, visit the Pacific Institute’s Water and Climate Equity page here.

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Founded in 1987, the Pacific Institute is a global water think tank that combines science-based thought leadership with active outreach to influence local, national, and international efforts in developing sustainable water policies. Its mission is to create and advance solutions to the world’s most pressing water challenges. From working with Fortune 500 companies to disenfranchised communities, the Pacific Institute leads local, national, and international efforts in developing sustainable water policies and delivering meaningful results. To learn more about the Pacific Institute, visit www.pacinst.org, Twitter at @PacificInstitut, or LinkedIn and Facebook at @Pacific Institute.

RCAP is a national non-profit network providing opportunity, assistance, and practical guidance to small communities in all 50 states, U.S. territories, and tribal lands to ensure access to safe drinking water, sanitary wastewater disposal, and economic prosperity for all rural America. RCAP works together with rural communities and partners across the country to elevate rural voices and build local capacity to improve quality of life, starting at the tap. To learn more about RCAP, visit www.rcap.org.

LiKEN is a link-tank, connecting local knowledge with specialized expertise to build capacity to grow good livelihoods based on local assets, to monitor community health and wealth to avoid boom and bust economies, and to take evidence-based action for future well-being based on deep understanding of the past. The goals of LiKEN’s water work are to help communities document their own assets and do evidence-based planning; to build collaborations among communities and the academic, expert, government, and nonprofit sectors; and to develop educational materials on water issues that are useful to communities. To learn more about LiKEN, visit https://likenknowledge.org.

DigDeep is a human rights nonprofit working to ensure every American has access to running water and sanitation. DigDeep’s community-led infrastructure projects have brought clean, running water to hundreds of families through the award-winning Navajo Water Project (Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah), Appalachia Water Project (West Virginia), and Colonias Water Project (Texas). DigDeep is a leading voice in research, workforce development, and policy advocacy around water access in the US. In November 2019, DigDeep and the US Water Alliance co-authored the groundbreaking ‘Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States: A National Action Plan’ report, which revealed over 2.2 million Americans live without a tap or toilet at home. In June 2022, DigDeep released a follow-up report, ‘Draining: The Economic Impact of America’s Hidden Water Crisis,’ showing the water access gap costs the US economy $8.65 billion per year. For more information, visit digdeep.org.