A report by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has explored the geography of insecure water access across the United States, remarking that safe, reliable, and equitable water access is a fundamental human right that proves critical to both health and livelihoods. Interestingly, the U.S. still has major problems when it comes to providing universal access to piped water and the report found that around 471,000 American households – about 1.1 million individuals – lack “complete plumbing”. That is currently defined as having access to piped hot and cold water and a bathtub or shower that is all located within the housing unit and used only by its occupants.
The problem is predominantly an urban one with 73% of all affected households located in cities. Nearly half (47%) of all households without water access are located in the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, a figure that tracks closely with national population distribution. Within those 50 metros, an estimated 220,300 households or 514,000 individuals lack access to piped water. The report shows that the New York metro area has the highest number of households and people affected at around 27,000 and 65,000, respectively. Los Angeles and San Francisco followed with Chicago and Houston rounding off the top five.
The report states that “the spatial and sociodemographic patterns of plumbing poverty reveal that urban water insecurity is a relational condition reflecting disparities of race and class”, adding that urban water management and security have largely been framed as a supply issue to date. It found that residents without access to safe piped water are 35% more likely to be people of color and 61% more likely to be renters rather than property owners.
*Click below to enlarge (charted by Statista)