WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan group of lawmakers are joining forces to bring greater attention to the global need for clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. Today, U.S. Reps. Darin LaHood (R-IL), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Xochitl Torres-Small (D-NM), and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) officially launched the International Water and Sanitation Caucus along with eight other founding members.

The new caucus will provide focused oversight and advocacy around water and sanitation issues, which are central to U.S. and global health, economic productivity, ecosystem functions, and national security. Currently, 785 million people lack access to clean drinking water and 2 billion do not have access to proper sanitation. Future projections are even more sobering, with 2.9 billion people in 48 countries facing water shortages in the next decade.

"Inadequate water and sanitation around the world is a risk to America's national security and our global health," LaHood said. "As a global health leader, the United States must elevate the importance of sanitation and access to clean water, which has been further illuminated by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud to join Congressman Blumenauer in launching the International Water and Sanitation Caucus and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to emphasize these important issues."

“Extreme weather events, like the devastating wildfires burning throughout my home state, are a reminder of the destructive threats posed by the climate emergency. This climate crisis will only expedite the water scarcity faced by billions, putting some of the most vulnerable populations at an even greater risk.” Blumenauer said. “Access to clean, safe drinking water and sanitation is not only essential in the prevention of unnecessary disease and death, it is a basic human right.”

“Access to clean water for drinking, sanitation, and hygiene is necessary to improve health and wellness, promote social resiliency, and strengthen the global economy,” Walorski said. “I’m excited to join my colleagues in launching the bipartisan International Water and Sanitation Caucus to explore challenges and solutions surrounding access to safe water and proper hygiene in communities across our country and around the world.”

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the critical need for clean water and sanitation as the primary way to curtail and prevent the spread of the virus and dozens of other illnesses and diseases. An estimated 1 billion people are at immediate risk of COVID-19 because they cannot adequately wash their hands, which results in disproportionate impacts on low resource communities where PPE and social distancing are not possible.