Celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of the Water for the World Act at Major WASH Event on Capitol Hill

March 21, 2024, Washington, DC – Nearly 200 representatives of government, industry, NGOs, and research institutions in the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector joined together on Capitol Hill to celebrate 10 years of the Sen. Paul Simon Water for the World Act.

The Millennium Water Alliance, the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO, a major association for the plumbing industry) and MWA member WaterAid America led in organizing the event featuring five major speakers: USAID Administrator Samantha Power, Acting Assistant EPA Administrator Bruno Piggott, and the three cochairs of Congressional Global Water Security Caucus – Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL), and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY). (Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), who along with Rep. Blumenauer was one the lead sponsors of the 2014 Act, was unable to join in person but spoke to the crowd by video.)

The evening event, moderated by Laura Kohler, Board member for The Kohler Company, also featured remarks by Patti Simon, widow of the late Sen. Paul Simon (after whom the Act is named), NFL football star Josh Norman and soccer star Kash Siddiqui, board members for the group Football for Peace, an international organization of soccer and American football players encouraging young people to be involved in solutions to pressing social problems such as poverty, climate challenges, and water issues. 

The event also honored longtime water and sanitation champion Rep. Blumenauer, who has announced his retirement from Congress at the end of this term, after 27 years of service to the nation and his Oregon Congressional district.

Laura Kohler, Patti Simon, Earl Blumenauer

In a powerful speech, Rep. Blumenauer declared it is “unconscionable” that the world does not do more to accelerate access to safe drinking water and sanitation for more of the poorest communities in developing nations. He also noted that even today in the United States, this remains an issue for some remote  and poor rural communities in parts of the country.

“Its bipartisan nature was key to its success,” Blumenauer said. “Rep. Ted Poe, a conservative Republican from Texas who didn’t like government spending, stepped up as co-sponsor. The legislation’s namesake, the late Paul Simon, was relentless in his work to bring members across the political spectrum together.”

The audience gave Rep. Blumenauer a standing ovation as he was introduced, and again when he completed his remarks.

Administrator Power noted some of the history that led to the Water for the Poor Act in 2005 and its amending legislation, the Water for the World Act in 2014.

“Some of you may know that during his tenure up here on Capitol Hill, [Sen.]Paul Simon traveled with then-Senator Harry Reid to Uzbekistan, where he visited remnants of the Aral Sea,” Administrator Power said. “He never forgot what he saw – the wide expanse of dry land that should have been filled with sapphire blue. The boats still moored, sitting utterly uselessly and strangely in what had become a desert. The infants in health clinics suffering from liver disease, from anemia, from rickets,” 

The Administrator also noted one example of USAID’s current work in water and sanitation, in the Philippines beach town of Puerto Princesa City, where ground water resources were degraded, and renewable river water was expensive to treat.  USAID created a financing facility that connected private investors to local water service providers in need of capital. 

“These private loans helped finance wastewater treatment projects, while also expanding local water supply by purifying and distributing river water,” she added. In another example, she noted that USAID, working again with private companies and nonprofit organizations, helped upgrade more than one hundred water systems across Kenya and establish real-time monitoring and remote sensors to detect failing pipes and boreholes from hundreds of miles away. 

In the time since Water for the World Act became law, USAID has helped 42 million people access clean water, and 38 million people access sanitation services, she said. 

Rep. LaHood spoke of the continuing strong bipartisan tradition in Congress to support sustained funding for international water and sanitation, and he praised Rep. Blumenauer for his relentless efforts to bring Democrats and Republicans on board to maintain US. leadership in the global  effort. 

Rep. Meng also emphasized the need to work together and the remaining enormous global need with the example of hundreds of health care facilities across the developing world that still lack safe water or sanitation systems.

Rep. LaHood with Kash Siddiqui, founder of Football for Peace

MWA thanks all these great speakers for their contributions and thanks all the attendees who demonstrated their personal and professional commitment to the issue. In particular, we also thank other sponsors of the event without whom it would not have been possible:

Our headline sponsors Chemonics International, Ferguson Company, The Kohler Company, Lixil Corporation, Procter and Gamble, Tetra Tech, and Toto, and contributing sponsors Global Health Council, InterAction, UNICEF USA, and MWA members Food for the Hungry, Save the Children, and World Vision.

As noted above, IAPMO and WaterAid America organized with MWA, and we are grateful for their tireless incredible work to make this a major event for the U.S. WASH sector an unmatched success this year in our continued advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill!

For more information: John Sparks info@mwawater.org 

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