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Smithsonian Clean Water: A Moral, Human Rights, Civil Rights, and Health Issue

Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right. Nonetheless, there are vast disparities in equitable distribution of clean water across the planet. I witnessed these challenges firsthand while working to improve local climate change adaptation plans on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua with blueEnergy, a sustainable energy non-profit centered in Bluefields, Nicaragua. Local communities face intense, flood-causing rains followed by lasting droughts which dry wells, rivers, and creeks. Increasing temperatures deplete crop yields and force residents to expand farm space through deforestation, which eliminates wildlife and causes harmful water pollution. These changes threaten the basic well-being of local communities: access to water, food, and safety. Even within the United States and other developed nations, there are significant disparities in clean water access. The recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan is a harrowing reminder of the environmental and health burdens often shouldered by low-income communities and communities of color. All people, regardless of race and class, share a common right to clean water and a clean environment.

Read the complete article by Samuel García in the Smithsonian Anacostia Urban Waterways Newsletter (#7 Fall 2016).