High-Level Coalition to Address Global Water Issues in D.C.

A girl rests after carrying water uphill in a camp for homeless families set up on a golf course in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.(Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance)

A diverse coalition of officials from the U.S. government, philanthropic foundations, corporations, NGOs, civic organizations, faith-based groups, and universities will gather at the nation's capitol today to show their support for safe, affordable and sustainable drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Co-hosted by Water Advocates and the National Geographic Society, the high-level event kicks off two days of World Water Day (Mar. 22) activities to raise awareness for what is considered one of the top environmental concerns today.

According to statistics, one in six people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water and two in five people lack access to basic sanitation. In total, 3.5 million people each year die from inadequate access to water services.

"Water is the most pressing issue of our time," said Gil Grosvenor, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Geographic Society and a speaker at the event. "It's time we do something about it with solutions available today."

"Water is a gift from God to be preserved and shared for the benefit of all people," said the Rev. John L. McCullough, executive director and chief executive officer of Church World Service (CWS). "Access to water is a human right and a responsibility of public service, and not a commodity for the few who can afford to pay."

CWS is currently urging Congress to approve $500 million in global funding for safe drinking water and sanitation for fiscal year 2011. McCullough has said that U.S. funding for global safe water is vital in addressing "what is the bottom line requirement for life, health, food security and sustainable development in both climate-challenged poor countries and, increasingly, a priority in developed countries."

Along with CWS, other groups engaged in the Mar. 22 event include Action Against Hunger, AED, Africare, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Earth Day Network, Global Water, Global Water Challenge, H2O for Life, InterAction, Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, Millennium Water Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, ONE, PATH, P&G Children's Safe Drinking Water Program, Project Concern International, PSI, US Coalition for Child Survival, WaterAid, Water.org, Water Advocates, Water and Sanitation Program, Water For People, the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and World Vision.

Notable speakers include U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Reilly, former administrator for EPA and chairman for Global Water Challenge.

Monday's activities will be followed by World Water Advocacy Day on Tuesday, March 23, where advocates from across the country will be calling on Congress to take action to increase support for WASH initiatives. Sen. John Kerry (R-Mass), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass), and Population Services International (PSI) Ambassador Mandy Moore will be leading the advocacy efforts.

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