The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act was signed into law following unanimous House passage of the bill, HR 2901, the Senate’s unanimous consent, and President Obama signing the bill into law on December 19.

Today is monumental for those of us dedicated to providing safe drinking water, toilets and hygiene promotion to the world’s poorest people, and even more important for the billions of people who are currently waiting for those services. Water for the World has enjoyed broad bipartisan support and extraordinary commitment from our Congressional champions, especially Congressmen Poe and Blumenauer and Senators Corker and Durbin. We are incredibly grateful that they have joined us in the fight to ensure all people have these basic lifesaving services.”  Sarina Prabasi, CEO WaterAid - US

Over three Sessions of Congress, WaterAid has worked closely with Members of Congress and more than 75 NGOs and faith-based organizations to push for improved effectiveness of the US government’s limited resources allocated to water, sanitation and hygiene programs. Water for the World’s final passage by Congress is the culmination of these tireless efforts and unexpected partnerships, and is a testament to the fact that that water, sanitation and hygiene are basic services that no one should live without.

Water for the World will help to address the needs of the 2.3 billion people who do not have access to a toilet and the 771 million people who still live without safe drinking water. By improving the pre-investment analysis undertaken by USAID and safeguarding existing capacity and coordination across the Federal government, Water for the World will help to ensure US support is going where it is needed most. 

Providing access to water, sanitation and hygiene for the poorest and most marginalized will, in turn, help to prevent leading causes of child deaths, stem the spread of deadly outbreaks like Ebola, increase girls’ educational opportunity, reduce household poverty, and advance economic development. 

“WaterAid looks forward to working with USAID and the Department of State on implementing the Water for the World Act,” Prabasi continued. “For now, we join our many partners in civil society and in Congress in celebrating this renewed commitment to meeting basic needs for people around the world.”

The Water for the World Act is a response to needed improvements. It focuses on:

  • Ensuring that resources go to the countries and communities most in need of WASH.
  • Ensuring that the US government agencies working on WASH and all other partners work together to make sure that the resources invested achieve long-term impact.
  • Ensuring that WASH programs are included in other critical measures that address child survival, global health, food security and nutrition, and gender equality.
  • Ensuring there is proper review of WASH projects by the US government to increase transparency in reporting and ensure that projects are effective and impactful. 

In 2005, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act was signed into law, for the first time making safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) a US foreign policy priority. In the years since, USAID (the United States Agency for International Development) and the US Department of State have improved millions of lives by providing WASH services, improving taps and toilets that already existed but needed repairs, and working with governments to increase efforts to meet everyone’s human rights to water and sanitation.

Though the original bill was a terrific step forward for promoting and funding critical WASH projects, there needed to be greater clarity on where the money is being invested and how the US government was going to review and evaluate those projects in the long term. That is where the Water for the World Act came in. The bill ensures that WASH programs henceforth will be more efficient, better monitored, and will provide assistance to the communities most in need.

VIDEO: Congressman Judge Ted Poe (R-TX) makes the case for the Water for the World Act, legislation that would make existing US aid for water and sanitation programs more effective without spending any more money. The Act would improve global health, reduce poverty, and improve the safety of women and girls. Along with Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Judge Poe re-introduced the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act in the House of Representatives in August 2013. This video was first presented at a board meeting of the Millennium Water Alliance, a membership organization of the large US-based implementers of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, including WaterAid.