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The 4th World Water Forum, which began Thursday in Mexico City and ends on World Water Day (March 22), follows closely on the heels of another landmark event, the passage of the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act. This groundbreaking law authorizes the U.S. president to redouble foreign aid efforts to promote global access to clean water and sanitation. The legislation calls on the United States to fulfill its commitment to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to halve the percentage of people without access to safe water by 2015, and marks the first time an MDG has been adopted as part of U.S. law.

The bill's primary House of Representatives author, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, was interviewed by Voice of America (VOA) about its significance and the unusual bipartisan support it received, following his February 14th speech at the Wilson Center. "What [the law] does for the first time is to establish providing safe drinking water and sanitation as a cornerstone of our foreign aid program," he said. The Clean Water Act passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, and Senate passage was unanimous.

Environmental Change and Security Program Director Geoff Dabelko also spoke with VOA about some of the bill's more surprising aspects: "One thing that struck me about the political discussion that went on around this bill was the startled looks of amazement on the faces of the congressmen when they heard that a relatively small proportion of our water-based foreign assistance was devoted to sub-Saharan Africa," he told VOA. In June 2005, Dabelko testified before the House International Relations Committee about water issues and in praise of the Water for the Poor Act.

ECSP's Navigating Peace Water Initiative is also studying water and sanitation, and will soon launch "Water Stories," a multimedia website showcasing compelling audio and video interviews that explore Mexico's struggle to provide clean water and adequate sanitation to its growing population.

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