MARCH 2009—"Water access is no longer simply a global health and development issue; it is a mortal and long-term threat that is increasingly becoming a national security issue," said Senator Richard Durbin at a March 17, 2009, event introducing the Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009. If passed, the act would designate a high-level representative on water within the State Department and establishes a new "Office of Water" at USAID.

The next day, former Senator William H. Frist and Coca-Cola Chairman E. Neville Isdell joined the CSIS Global Strategy Institute to launch the "Declaration on U.S. Policy and the Global Challenge of Water," which emphasizes the centrality of water to U.S. interests and calls for the United States to play a stronger role in addressing water as one of the most important, strategic challenges of our time.

"The United States must lead. If we focused on water as a priority instrument for Washington's engagement with the rest of the world, it would enable policymakers to achieve a range of all our foreign policy goals in an integrated, efficient fashion," said Frist. "Water must be integrated as a key element moving forward" in foreign assistance reform.

"I congratulate Senators Durbin and Frist, along with their partner organizations, for making this a truly notable week in the history of water in U.S. foreign assistance," said ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko.

Recently, Dabelko urged an audience at The Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies' Year of Water to "take the broad view of water." He and Aaron Salzberg, head of the Interagency Working Group on Water at the U.S. Department of State, asserted that the next challenge is to broaden the view of water beyond human health to education, agriculture, poverty, ecosystem services, culture, and security.

The Water for the World Act of 2009 scales up a commitment from the earlier Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, which has had notable success in focusing U.S. aid on water-related assistance. From 2007-2008, for instance, the U.S. helped provide 2 million people with access to an improved source of drinking water and more than 1.5 million people to improved sanitation. The 2009 act will seek to provide "100 million people around the world with sustainable access to clean water and sanitation by 2015," said Durbin.