The U.S. Conference of Mayors is holding its annual meeting over the next few days in San Francisco, with President Barack Obama among the speakers.
On the agenda: water. Turns out water problems aren’t limited to the parched West. Of course the mayors will be talking about water conservation, but there’s more.
“If you’re going to have a supply of water, you need it to be clean and accessible,” says Mitch Jones, a senior policy advocate at Food & Water Watch.
Jones says many cities that have plenty of water struggle to make sure it’s safe. Think Toledo after last summer’s algae blooms on Lake Erie, or Charleston, West Virginia, after that big chemical spill last year. Jones says clean water is expensive, and federal money for loans has dried up.
“Congress needs to step up and fund the programs that exist for getting that money out to the communities that need it,” says Jones.
Lima, Ohio, has also had problems with algae and waste water disposal. David Berger, Lima’s mayor, who will be speaking at the mayors’ conference about government mandates on water quality, says he wants federal grants, not loans.
“Loans we have to pay back,” he says. “Those truly don’t help us.”
Otherwise, Berger says, U.S. cities will have to take on billions of dollars worth of debt.