Harris calls water security a foreign policy priority

Jun 1, 2022, 11:39 AM | Updated: 12:10 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday the U.S. is safer if people in other countries have sufficient water to drink, grow food and safely dispose of sewage, emphasizing that water access is a foreign policy priority.

Harris said making sure that every country has enough water will prevent conflicts, improve health outcomes and boost local economies. Working towards those goals will make the world more stable and secure, according to a newly released White House plan to address issues facing global water supplies and quality.

The Biden administration said it will support investments in water infrastructure abroad and provide technical expertise to help other countries manage their water resources.

More than two billion people around the world live in “water stressed” countries where demand for water exceeds supplies, the World Health Organization estimates. Harris said that reality will have a “profound impact on America’s interests around the globe.”

“Water insecurity makes our world less stable,” she said, adding that it can lead to “mass migration, which can put significant pressure on neighboring communities.”

Republicans have criticized the Biden administration over the number of migrants arriving at the Southern border. Harris has frequently said tackling migration requires addressing “root causes,” and previously proposed providing short-term relief to some Central American countries dealing with extreme weather events.

Wednesday’s plan states that gaps in access to basic sanitation in Central America “contribute to inequality, drive migration, and foment civil unrest.”

Climate change will increase temperatures and drive extreme weather, making water access in some regions worse. So far, the world has made modest, uneven progress towards improving sanitation and drinking water services, the White House said.

Inadequate water access has the most effect on women, who need water for menstrual hygiene and are often responsible for transporting water, the plan said.

The WHO estimates that 2 billion people worldwide drink from a water source contaminated with feces, which can cause diarrhea and other diseases. The problem kills an estimated 485,000 people a year, according to the organization.

U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Samantha Power said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has deprived millions in that country of clean water.

“Some leaders are taking advantage of water insecurity and actually wielding it as a weapon of war,” said Power, who also spoke at the event.

The White House said it would use existing resources to implement the plan, but was thin on specifics about how deadlines or goals would be met. Those goals include improving clean water access without increasing greenhouse gas emissions, helping other countries sustainably manage resources, and getting international organizations to address water security issues.

Harris spoke at the White House alongside Power and Kathleen Hicks, deputy secretary at the Department of Defense. Other speakers included Alice Albright, CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the daughter of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

“Many of our most fundamental national security interests depend on water security,” Harris said.

The Biden administration also released a one-year report on its efforts to combat drought, a significant, stubborn problem impacting much of the western United States. Harris said the infrastructure bill passed last year directed billions toward water infrastructure, including the replacement of toxic lead pipes.

Harris’ home state of California has been especially hard hit by dry conditions. Less water has increased the risk of wildfires and forced water restrictions on millions of Californians.

“Across the West, we have seen the terrible cost of the climate crisis,” Harris said.


Phillis reported from St. Louis.


The Associated Press receives support from the Walton Family Foundation for coverage of water and environmental policy. The AP is solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s environmental coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/environment

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)...

Associated Press

Trump indictment unsealed in case involving mishandling of classified information

An indictment charging former President Donald Trump with mishandling classified documents has been unsealed.

18 hours ago

FILE - A bottle of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey is displayed next to a Bad Spaniels dog toy in A...

Associated Press

Ruff day in court: Supreme Court sides with Jack Daniel’s in dispute with makers of dog toy

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave whiskey maker Jack Daniel's reason to raise a glass, handing the company a new chance to win a trademark dispute with the makers of the Bad Spaniels dog toy.

2 days ago

(Pixabay Photo)...

Associated Press

6 arrested in alleged scheme to fraudulently collect millions in COVID aid meant for renters

Six people from Washington, Arizona and Texas have been arrested and accused of fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars of COVID-19 aid from an assistance program meant for renters, federal prosecutors said.

2 days ago

FILE - Protesters stand outside of the Senate chamber at the Indiana Statehouse on Feb. 22, 2023, i...

Associated Press

LGBTQ+ Americans are under attack, Human Rights Campaign declares in state of emergency warning

The Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. on Tuesday.

4 days ago

FILE - People wait in line outside the Supreme Court in Washington to listen to oral arguments in a...

Associated Press

Supreme Court opened the door to states’ voting restrictions. Now a new ruling could widen them.

Within hours of a U.S. Supreme Court decision dismantling a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, Texas lawmakers announced plans to implement a strict voter ID law that had been blocked by a federal court. Lawmakers in Alabama said they would press forward with a similar law that had been on hold.

4 days ago

Gavel (Pexels Photo)...

Associated Press

Ex-teacher sentenced to prison for making death threat against Arizona legislator

A former Tucson middle school teacher was sentenced Tuesday to 2 ½ years in prison after pleading guilty to making a death threat against Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

5 mental health myths you didn’t know were made up

Helping individuals understand mental health diagnoses like obsessive compulsive spectrum disorder or generalized anxiety disorder isn’t always an easy undertaking. After all, our society tends to spread misconceptions about mental health like wildfire. This is why being mindful about how we talk about mental health is so important. We can either perpetuate misinformation about already […]



Why drug-free weight loss still matters

Wanting to lose weight is a common goal for many people as they progress throughout life, but choosing between a holistic approach or to take medicine can be a tough decision.

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.

Harris calls water security a foreign policy priority