Water, Wealth, and Power in the U.S.


Water is being financed, priced, marketized, and governed under novel ownership regimes. These interventions have the potential to disrupt or entrench convergences between water, wealth, and power. While income is widely recognized as a determinant of water access, recent research also posits an inverse relationship between water, wealth and power: for instance, disproportionately high costs of water and wastewater services in communities of color, intergenerational impacts of polluted water on residential property values and individuals’ lifetime earnings, and the extent to which targeted divestments in water infrastructure can determine community ‘viability.’ These disparities in access fall along, and exacerbate, existing racial, ethnic, and gender inequalities, creating interlocking inequities. This team will focus on two questions: What are the roles of freshwater institutions in creating, dismantling, and/or transferring wealth and power? And, what are the roles of power and wealth in creating, dismantling, and/or transferring access to safe and affordable drinking water?