Harris calls water security a foreign policy priority

WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Kamala Harris said on Wednesday that it is safer in the United States if people in other countries have enough water to drink, grow food and safely dispose of wastewater, stressing that access to water is an external priority. politics.

Harris said the belief that every country has enough water will prevent conflicts, improve health outcomes and boost the local economy. Working towards these goals will make the world more stable and secure, according to the White House’s recently published plan to address global water supply and quality challenges.

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

More than two billion people worldwide live in countries under stress from water, where the demand for water exceeds its reserves, according to the World Health Organization. Harris said the reality would have “a profound impact on America’s interests around the world.”

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

Republicans have criticized the Biden administration for the number of migrants arriving at the southern border. Harris has often said that combating migration requires addressing “root causes,” and has previously offered short-term assistance to some Central American countries facing extreme weather events.

Wednesday’s claim that shortcomings in access to basic health services in Central America “promote inequality, stimulate migration and fuel civil unrest.”

Climate change will lead to higher temperatures and extreme weather, which will worsen access to water in some regions. So far, the world has made modest, uneven progress toward improving sanitation and drinking water services, the White House said.

Insufficient access to water has the greatest impact 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 water from a source contaminated with feces, which can cause diarrhea and other diseases. The organization estimates the problem kills about 485,000 people a year.

The administrator of the United States Agency for International Development Samantha Power said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has deprived millions of people of this country clean water.

“Some leaders use the dangers of water and actually use 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 did not specify how deadlines or goals would be met. These goals include improving access to clean water without increasing greenhouse gas emissions, assisting other countries in sustainable resource management, and involving international organizations in addressing water security issues.

Harris spoke at the White House with Power and Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Secretary of Defense. Other speakers included Alice Albright, CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation and daughter of former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

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

The Biden administration has also released an annual report on its efforts to combat drought, a significant and persistent problem affecting much of the western United States. Harris said last year’s infrastructure bill directs billions to water infrastructure, including the replacement of toxic lead pipes.

California, Harris ’hometown, has been particularly hard hit by arid conditions. Less water has increased the risk of forest fires and forced water restrictions for millions of California residents.

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

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Phyllis reported from St. Louis.

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The Associated Press receives support from the Walton Family Foundation to cover water and environmental policies. AP is solely responsible for all content. For all AP material on the environment, visit https://apnews.com/hub/environment

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