The river gives and the river takes away. That’s what they’ve said along the Mississippi River for more than a century.

But you don’t have to live in a river delta to appreciate the force and importance of water. Clean water—for drinking and for growing food—is quite simply the most basic human need. And it’s in trouble. As a result of climate change, some places have too much water, some not enough, and sometimes it’s the same place just weeks apart.

Late last year, the Biden administration’s National Security Council asked the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC), composed of “senior executives from industry and state and local government who own and operate the critical infrastructure essential to modern life,” to make wide-ranging recommendations to address the future of water. Last week, the council released its report, Preparing United States Critical Infrastructure for Today’s Evolving Water Crises.

While it’s a positive sign that the Biden administration is taking seriously the challenge of providing Americans with safe, clean, affordable water, managing the impact of floods and droughts, and maintaining the infrastructure to get it from the source to the people who need it, the report also contains some worrisome recommendations to lift barriers to privatization of water systems. Private control of public water systems could directly threaten our ability to solve many of the critical issues raised in the report.

This report—along with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that narrowed the definition of what constitutes “Waters of U.S.” –makes for an opportune moment to remind readers of a number of In the Public Interest resources available that explore the importance of public water and the risks of privatization. In the Public Interest has long taken a deep interest in water resources—who owns them, who controls them, and who benefits from them—always advocating that a common good such as water belongs in public hands.


Image courtesy Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

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