We are facing a water crisis in the United States, a crisis that includes issues of security, affordability, quality, and access. Over a third of Americans are at risk of losing affordable drinking water, and both flood risk and drought contribute to social and economic insecurity. More than half of our rivers remain in poor health and climate change will exacerbate many of these problems.
To move beyond crisis, we must work together to define a different path forward. River Network’s response to this crisis includes aligning our network around these four Key Issues.
Some 13.8 million U.S. households (almost 12%) face unaffordable water bills while water utilities struggle to fund maintenance or replacement of aging pipes. River Network will expand understanding of the causes and circumstances of today’s crisis, develop and disseminate new tools, and help identify a common rural and urban agenda that unifies and focuses our collective actions.
Over 12% of the U.S. population is exposed to flood risk, including nearly 170 coastal communities reaching or exceeding the threshold for chronic inundation from rising seas by 2035. Drought is no less of a threat. We will provide knowledge, tools, and engagement opportunities to local champions building resilient communities that anticipate risk, limit impact, and recover quickly from disaster.
Farmers and ranchers are essential partners in building a thriving agricultural sector that also supports clean water and healthy rivers. Farms, ranches, and rangeland occupy roughly 44% of U.S. land and consume approximately 80% of our water. Over the next five years, River Network will advance novel partnerships, opportunities to build trust, and identify aligned interests for forward progress.
When well-crafted, enforced, and fully funded, water laws and policies at the local, state, and federal level safeguard the health of our rivers and the security of our drinking water. With existing laws and policies under threat, River Network will leverage our network and our influence to defend protections vital to our nation, our children, and our environment.