Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently introduced an important piece of legislation that may drastically improve the opportunity for every person in the developing world to access to clean water, toilets, and better hygiene practices.

The Water for the World Act of 2013, introduced by these two congressmen, is a bill that is trying to ensure that the world’s abject poor receive the attention they need from the United States in the attempt to seek improvements in clean water access and hygiene. It is important to note that this act does not seek to create new agencies or programs, but to improve the efficiency of existing programs. The emphasis is not on higher dollar amounts, but more strategic approaches in trying to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.

Worldwide water sanitation holds important implications for those suffering in precarious conditions, as well as the global economy. The World Bank notes that water sanitation and hygiene programs are a great return on investment: For every $1 spent, $4 is returned in economic productivity, which contributes greatly to the world economy. If people do not have to worry about access to clean water, they can spend more time becoming educated, caring for their families, and contributing to both their economy and the worldwide economy. This would amount to over $220 billion being added to international trade each year.

Improvements in water sanitation, access, and hygiene that the Water for the World Act will try to effect will also significantly reduce transmissions of diseases such as pneumonia. Indirectly, rates of education will improve, as less people worldwide will suffer from malnutrition and diarrheal disease due to dirty water. As literacy rates increase, the rising middle class in developing countries will fight for more transparent and accountable governments. More responsible governance around the world is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy, but it cannot ever be realized if world populations are without access to clean water and sanitation.

Global water, sanitation, and hygiene programs currently constitute less than 1% of the budget of the United States Agency for International Development. Due to the bipartisan leadership of Poe and Blumenauer, their act will place a greater focus on enhancing the capacity of the U.S. government to provide for the world’s poorest, a much needed shift in policy which will stretch this 1% to help more people around the world.

Rahul Shah

Sources: Huffington Post, WASH Advocates, USAid