Aug. 3, 2020

#91: Why is Drinking Water So Unaffordable for So Many Americans?

#91: Why is Drinking Water So Unaffordable for So Many Americans?

We’re back!

In Episode 91, Quinn & Brian ask: Why is drinking water so unaffordable, or unavailable, or just filthy for so many people?

Our guests are: Nina Lakhani & Mary Grant. Nina is environmental justice reporter for The Guardian US and Mary Grant is the Public Water for All Campaign Director at Food & Water Watch. They’ve bottled up their empathy and their anger for good, and we think they fit right in on the show.

If it wasn’t already obvious: water is important. It’s one of the few things we actually need to survive, believe it or not. We’ve all heard of problems in Flint, but that’s not some crazy anomaly. It’s just the one town that got the most media attention, and even then, there are still huge problems with their water supply.

The inequitable access to basic resources has been normalized in our country, but let's be clear about one thing — it’s NOT normal, and it doesn’t happen at anywhere near this scale in other developed countries. So, want to Make America Great Again? Well, let’s start by just getting us to a C average in basic human rights.

TAKE ACTION: There’s an important vote happening on August 7th! If you want to help people being affected by this right now, call your Senator and tell them to fight for a second Coronavirus Relief Package that includes a national moratorium on water, power, and broadband shutoffs: 202-609-9041

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Important, Not Important is produced by Crate Media

Transcript

Quinn: Welcome to Important, Not Important, my name is Quinn Emmett.

Brian: And I'm Brian Colbert Kennedy.

Quinn: And this is the podcast where we give you the tools you need to fight for a better future for everyone. And that couldn't be more pertinent than today's conversation. We give you the context straight from the smartest people on the planet, and the action steps you can take to support them.

Brian: Our guests are scientists, their doctors and nurses, journalists, engineers, farmers, politicians, activists, educators, business leaders, astronauts, reverends.

Quinn: Even a Reverend. And this is your friendly reminder, that you can send questions, thoughts and feedback to us on Twitter @importantnotimp, or you can email us at funtalk@importantnonimportant.com.

Brian: And you can join the tens of thousands of other smart people and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter @ImportantIt'snotimportant.com

Quinn: And that's the newsletter that was nominated for the Best newsletter Webby and we lost to Who? [crosstalk 00:01:08]. So hanging that on the wall for damn sure, that's almost better than winning. Hey, Brian, on this week's episode, we've asked, why is drinking water so unaffordable for so many Americans? It seems ridiculous.

Brian: Unaffordable, and or just unavailable or-

Quinn: Just unavailable. Or just dirty, or just filthy. Uh-huh.

Brian: And we talked to some wonderful people about this infuriating question. Who were they?

Quinn: Yep, they are journalists, Nina Lakhani from The Guardian and Mary Grant from Food and Water watch. And it seems like, boy, have they bottled up their empathy and their anger for good. And it fits right in with our tone and our ethos here I think.

Brian: Couldn't agree more. One has been working for, basically ever, on getting people clean water. The other has been in this country for 10 months and is already just blown away by the amount of people that don't [crosstalk 00:02:07].

Quinn: Oh, yes, yeah, that too. Anyways, please enjoy this conversation with Nina and Mary and excited for you to help us take some action here at the end. Stick around to the end. Thanks everybody.

Brian: That does it.

Quinn: Our guests today are Nina Lakhani and Mary Grant. And together we're going to find out why so many Americans can't afford drinking water, which is interestingly the one thing that every human being needs to survive. Nina and Mary, welcome.

Mary Grant: Hello.

Nina Lakhani: Hi. Thank you for having me.

Quinn: For sure. Thank you guys for coming on.

Brian: We're pleased. So pleased to be here.

Quinn: We're grateful.

Brian: Let's start off by just giving our listeners a quick little who you are and what you do. Nina if you'd like to start.

Nina Lakhani: Sure, I am a British journalist based in New York om the environmental justice reporter for Guardian US, basically interested in who has access and who doesn't have access to clean air, running water, land, green spaces, that sort of stuff.

Brian: The essentials.

Quinn: Yeah.

Nina Lakhani: Exactly.

Quinn: Things that are necessary. Awesome. Well, thank you for joining us. Mary, what's your story?

Mary Grant: So I'm the Public Water for All campaign director at Flint Waterwatch. We're a national nonprofit environmental organization in the United States. And the heart of what we do is grassroots organizing. We mobilize regular people to build political power, to move the bold and uncompromised solutions to our most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time.

Quinn: Once again, sounds like a couple slackers Brian.

Mary Grant: Yeah.

Quinn: Who are these? We got aim higher?

Brian: Incredible. Thank you so much. Awesome introductions. And then quick reminder to everybody. Our goal here is to provide some quick context for our topic today, and then we'll dig into action oriented questions and actions that everybody out there can take to help fight and support alongside you guys.

Quinn: So that people have water, which seems like an insane thing to have to ask for.

Brian: Just water.

Quinn: But that's where we are. Awesome. So, Nina and Mary, we do like to start with one important question that we ask everyone to set the tone for this fiasco. So instead of saying, "Tell us your entire life story," we like to ask, "Why are you vital to the survival of the species? And whoever would like to go first, by all means jump in.[crosstalk 00:04:41]. It's true. Nina, you did answer the harder question, which was like, What's my name and title, earlier. I feel like it's only appropriate that Mary steps up for this one. And Mary, be bold, be honest. You are here for Reason?

Mary Grant: Sure. So water is just, it's a necessity for life. Everyone, every person, every living thing needs water. And the heart of what I care about, what I'm mobilized and energized to work on is to make sure people have access to water. That we're protecting our water supplies for the future of the planet and for people. Everyone needs water. It's just a basic human right. It's a matter of justice. And so, I think it's not just me, it's me being able to work with people being able to work with our organizers, our communication team, great journalists like Nina, to get the stories out there so that we can protect our water supplies and make sure people have access to it in their homes.

Quinn: And again.

Brian: Yes.

Quinn: Sounds like you could aim-

Brian: Higher, vital.

Quinn: Thank you. Nina, what's your story?

Nina Lakhani: Okay. So I've only been living in the US for 10 months. And before moving here I was a reporter covering Central America, Mexico, I've worked in lots of countries, working with communities who have few resources and don't have access to these basic fundamental things like clean running water. I did not expect to find the same in America. This is supposedly the richest country in the world. It's supposedly the bastion of Western civilization. And yet there are millions and millions of ordinary Americans that in 2020 do not have access to clean running affordable water. That is wild, and it's completely unacceptable. And it's not normal.

Nina Lakhani: I feel like it's become normalized in this country, for poor people to be, and poor people and people of color and Native Americans to be punished just for who they are, and to not have access to these basic services, and even things like clean air and adequate foods, et cetera. But it isn't normal. And really, America cannot claim to be this bastion of civilization and democracy, and the richest country in the world and have people, during a pandemic, not having running water to wash their hands with. That's crazy.

Quinn: Yes. you picked a really interesting time to show up.

Brian: Yeah, welcome.

Quinn: To be clear, we've had a lot of, not great moments over the years, but boy, what a 10 month stretch to be here. So I feel like you could probably sue for false advertising.

Nina Lakhani: Well, the funny thing, which is, I've just written a book about Honduras, seven years working in really quite difficult circumstances, and this was meant to be my breakthrough.

Quinn: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:07:44]. I am real sorry.

Nina Lakhani: This was going to be my paws of taking it easy a bit, but yeah, it didn't quite work. That's fine.

Quinn: Yeah. Sorry. Jesus. Well, thank you. I appreciate the time you've spent on this and the effort you've clearly put into it. And I'm excited to dig into those things so people can really understand. Because I think one of the biggest, clearly it's been it's been verified 1000 different ways, one of the biggest issues in the US right now are the major disconnects amongst people's, whether they are designed that way or not. So let's just establish a little bit of context. I just want to talk just for a moment about water and America and then we'll dig into this.

Quinn: So forgetting politics and justice and demographics, a human being can go three to four days without water, that's just physiology, right? Biology, all of the ologies, there are 331 ish, I think Americans that need that water. Again, about every three or four days, or they will die. You wouldn't believe that many people would prefer to have drinking water more often than every three or four days, and they would prefer for it to be clean and not make them sick. It seems crazy. Again, we seem to be having some issues with this. So on a regular day, but especially during these times, during COVID, clean, potable water is also necessary for washing hands. But the problem is, as Nina has hinted at here, and Mary has worked her entire life on, that water, potable drinking water, water you can wash yourself with, clean yourself with, has become much more unaffordable for a variety of reasons and for millions of Americans. So there's a study, and Nina and Mary, please correct me if I butcher this in some way, out of the University of California, Irvine, and it claims that in any given year from 1982 to 2015, somewhere between nine and 45 million Americans got their drinking water from a source that was in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Quinn: So, that's something like two to 13% of Americans ish. To be fair, that means that 98 to 87% of Americans have access to drinking water that isn't in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which is pretty decent on a relative global scale. But as Nina mentioned, we tend to try to hold ourselves to a higher standard here, or we used to, or we say it, but we don't. And the problem is, and this is a running theme here, and we have spent more focus on this as we go, is that, in America, of course, the places where this issue is recurring, that it is not safe, that it is not affordable, is that low income areas are generally harder hit.

Quinn: Black and brown people are generally harder hit. Or those closer to petrochemical refineries like so much of Texas, and now Pennsylvania. Right? We're not this bastion, we are not the city on the hill, we are a racist country, right? We have a poorly defined measure of poverty with basically no safety net unless you're white. But if you are white, it seems like you can have that water. You can afford it, you can drink it, you can vote, you can hold office, you can run a company with impunity.

Quinn: So despite centuries of slavery and institutionalized racism of poisoning air and water and food, in the name of capitalism, and I guess liberty of refusing to pick our own foods or work in the meat plants that provide the meat that we can't stop eating, that destroy our farmlands and our water, despite all these legitimate marks against white people that look like me, either look like Brian, we continue to hold power, and thus are able to make the most valuable resource to humanity, either tainted and or unaffordable. So white supremacy is winning again. It is a system that is pretty much unrivaled in history, and it is affecting every portion of our society. And today, I want to talk about how it's affecting our drinking water. And why America's drinking water has become so unaffordable for so many.

Quinn: Mary, if you don't mind, you have been working on water rights for a long time. Is there a specific relationship you can point to that was a catalyst for why you are who you are today in what you're working on?

Mary Grant: Sure, when I was in college actually worked for an environmental justice organization in North Carolina. And one of the things we did is looked at water access in North Carolina. And I went out to a community, a Latin X community on recent immigrants, who had almost every household in that community was shut off from water service when their water system was privatized, to a large water company. And so that's really when I decided that I wanted to work on water access issues in the United States. I wanted to make sure that we make sure that people have access to running water in this country. And you're right, it's absolutely a racial justice issue.

Mary Grant: We know that not only are black and indigenous brown community is disproportionately more likely to have unsafe water, they're also more likely to be shut off from water service on when they cannot afford to pay their bills. They also can more likely to face some of these more punitive measures of collections. It's punishing people, like Nina was saying, for being poor ,simply for being poor. You lose water service, you're cut off from essential service, you can lose your home through tax sale if you can't afford your water bill.

Mary Grant: There's other broader, bigger implications too. when you don't have running water in your home, which child services could come, social services, they could take your children away. People in Detroit are really scared when their water service is shut off of losing their children. It's heartbreaking and it's really causing trauma across US, that people are losing water service, that they're unable to afford their water bills.

Quinn: Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, I feel like the motto today is, this is insane. It's like the things, with the mantra of Make America Great Again, it's like we're so far from, forget great, we're nowhere near neutral. People don't have water, forget healthcare. People don't have water. It's crazy. Nina, your just massive investigation with the Guardian really open this up for so many people in the general public. What prompted you to take this on besides wanting to come to New York for vacation? After so many years covering Central America, which Americans are so happy to look down their noses at?

Nina Lakhani: Yeah. I got slightly unhealthy obsession with water. I think in all its aspects, I've done a lot of reporting on the impact of internationally funded hydroelectric dams for example, and one of the last, which have devastating effects and access to water for often rural and indigenous communities, and one of the last series that I did before moving here, was looking at that impact of the climate crisis on water shortages in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. And how that this is forcing people to flee these countries because they're starving because they don't have, there's drought and they can't access clean water, et cetera. So it was something that I was already really interested in when I arrived here, just thinking about projects that I wanted to get my teeth into.

Nina Lakhani: Obviously, there has been scandals like Flint, and Newark, among many others, regarding unsafe toxic water in the US now, but then I just realized I've seen some anecdotal reports, seen some academic papers that water poverty, people just not being able to afford to pay their bills and the punitive measures being used that Mary just described. So having your water shut off because you cannot pay your bill or even be exclused in your house in a tax sale. People who will increasingly report in over the last decade. So that's really what got me into it. Honestly, there are so many things in terms of America's water crisis that I could have really got my teeth into. An estimated two, two and a half million Americans, including in Puerto Rico, do not have indoor plumbing. So they don't have running water. They don't have flushing toilets. And Native Americans are so much more affected by this than other populations.

Nina Lakhani: And if you're just bringing it back to the Coronavirus pandemic, for weeks if not months, the Navajo nation had the highest per capita rate of Coronavirus and the highest Coronavirus death desk. On the Navajo Nation, a third People do not have indoor plumbing, they do not have running water. That's not even get into affordability. That's just actually having pipe taps in your houses. So that's the starting point. And then when I started to think about affordability, I think the advantage I have and The Guardian has, some times in terms of being foreigners, we come to this with fresh eyes, we're shocked by the shocking and we're astounded by the extraordinary, and I think that's a good thing about being in an international perspective to any story really is that, in other developing countries, in all other developed countries, so industrialized countries, this doesn't happen.

Nina Lakhani: First of all, we have far less complex water systems. Like in the US there are thousands and thousands and thousands of water systems, and yet there is no national watchdog. There's no regulator that's tracking things like... We have the EPA that's there to track quality, but there's no watchdog tracking service. There's no truck watchdog tracking punitive measures, shut offs. We don't know exactly how many people are shut off, what happens to them, how many people don't have water because of poverty. And we have those type of regulators in Europe, and in other parts of the world. And shut offs are not permitted. It is not normal-

Quinn: Because it's a cruel thing to do.

Nina Lakhani: That you shut off a person's water. It's so cruel. And I think it's intentionally cruel.

Quinn: That's what we do here.

Nina Lakhani: I think that I've spoken, places like Philadelphia, Cleveland, where you have water department saying, "Well, they just need to pay their bill. They should just pay their bills." It's like, "Okay, well, just because you keep putting up the price of water, which will come to, I'm sure, in terms of the price of water increasing that exponentially over the last decade across the country, just because you keep putting up the price. If a person can't pay it, they can't pay it, if they choose in every month, they've got a limited income and they've got to pay their rent, medical bills, stuff for school for their kids, food, all of this basic stuff, and then water you add to the equation, they're faced with impossible choices every month." It's these impossible trade offs.

Nina Lakhani: And water, our investigation shows and Mary's work at food and water watch shows as well, is that in the last decade has become one of those forces that a growing number of ordinary Americans, so these aren't just Americans who are on disability benefits who aren't able to work for different reasons, really, this includes working Americans are not able to afford their water bills. And that is just that [inaudible 00:19:55].

Quinn: It's one thing to tell people, it's a direct TV bill. Like, just pay your bill. That's called an elective thing. But when you talk about people having their water turned off and utilities or private companies or whoever might be saying, "Well, they should just pay the bill." It reminds me of, and I don't use it lightly, but it's so vital and so clarifying that Martin Luther King quote that I just looked up because I didn't want to mingle it. But he said, "It's all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps. But it's cruel just to say to a bootless man, that he ought to lift himself up by his own bootstraps." which is, we're talking about water, it's not some elective thing. It's incredible. And Nina, if I could just, for one more moment. you seem to come to this. I'm sure you both do and anyone who does this, you have to come to this from a real place of empathy. I believe you were a mental health nurse? Is that correct?

Nina Lakhani: I was.

Quinn: Can you talk a little bit about how maybe water insecurity affects mental health? Because that is another thing that America is having a very, very difficult time with.

Nina Lakhani: Sure. I think that losing your water, the threat of losing water and also losing your house because you can't afford to pay is hugely stressful, it's anxiety provoking, and in the end, it's traumatic. And this is happening disproportionately in communities where there are already multiple layers of trauma. Traumas of racism, traumas of stigma. Traumas of poverty, all of this is piling on. So you have highly traumatized communities and people. And this is another thing, it's incredibly anxiety provoking of anyone that's been in a situation where you're not sure if you're going to be able to pay next month's rent. And millions of Americans have been in that position or and will be in that position as the pandemic continues. Not being able to, not being sure if you're going to be able to have enough food to feed your kids. Not being sure if you're going to have the bus fare that you need to be able to get to a cooling center when it's 110 degrees outside and you can't afford air conditioning yourself.

Nina Lakhani: All of these things are stressful, they're anxiety provoking, and they are traumatic. And there's a cumulative effect on people's lives. In one of the stories that I did as part of this investigation, I interviewed a man called Albert [Pique00:00:22:41] in Cleveland, who just turned 60. And Mr. Pickett who was turned off in 2013. And he's not had water since that.

Quinn: I'm sorry, when did he have it turned off?

Nina Lakhani: 2013.

Brian: How is that okay?

Nina Lakhani: So he moved back into the family home where he had grown up after his mother died and his mother had had Alzheimer's and had got fined. All her bills, her water bill, her property taxes, everything because she had Alzheimer's. Why? And that's what happened. And when he moved in, he inherited the debt, and he tried to negotiate with the Cleveland water department to get onto a payment plan. But he never had the several hundred dollars required as a down payment on a deposit. So rather than the water department saying, "Okay, well look, you want to pay it back, but you can't pay the deposit, let's work it out." They simply shut off his water. And that has honestly had this domino effect on his life. It has ruined his life. And as he said to me, "This took away my dignity. It took away who I was as a person." He used to look after his grandkids before that. Obviously they couldn't come anymore, because how can you have little kids in the house when you haven't got water, when you haven't got a toilet, when you can't... All those basic things.

Nina Lakhani: It forced him to borrow tank long buckets of water from neighbors houses in order to flush the toilet, go to people's houses to shower, buy a bottle of water to drink and cook with, and to take his medication. So the impact on his mental health, on his self esteem has just been devastating. And then this man has a stroke, a severe stroke, ends up in a nursing facility, comes out of hospital, comes out of this facility, and shortly afterwards there's a fire, a small fire in his house that he would have been able to put out. It was just like a cigarette or something smoldering on the carpet. And he couldn't because he didn't have any water. His whole house burnt down before the fire service arrived.

Nina Lakhani: I went there to meet him in Cleveland, and honestly, like I said, I've interviewed a lot of people in a lot of desperate situations, but this was shocking. The whole of the front of his house was a [inaudible 00:25:09]. And there's this man, 60, it's freezing cold, it's been snowing in Cleveland, this was like February, walking with a walking frame because of his stroke, completely unstable. With a light jacket and tennis shoes on, because all his clothes had burn in the fire, and he's been sleeping on sofas and in his car. And you're just like, the cruelty of that is just mind blowing, really mind blowing.

Brian: We are seemingly more and more a cruel country in a lot of ways. Thank you for sharing all that. I'm just over here trying not to throw things across the room.

Quinn: Yeah.

Brian: So let's try and get a guess into the nuts and bolts of this so that people can understand why this is happening. Mary, When did the federal government start to wiggle their way out of the responsibility to provide affordable drinking water to Americans? Was it a one time decision or a gradual erosion?

Mary Grant: So the federal government really did used to commit to providing safe water for all. It was back in the 1970s when federal funding for water systems peaked. 1977, federal funding peaked for our water infrastructure. And since then it's been declining. There was a big drop under the Reagan administration where they took away a construction grant program for our wastewater systems and replaced it with a loan program. And it reached historic lows under the George W. Bush administration. There's a big uptick with the Obama administration and the stimulus, and then it fell again, and then decided pretty flat since then. So, since 1977, federal funding for our water infrastructure has fallen by 77% in real terms, so the federal funding isn't there.

Mary Grant: Also costs are going up, our water systems that were built with those federal dollars are now aging, they're reaching the end of their useful lives. We're also learning more about the contaminants in our water. We need to remove all these lead pipes. No one should have a lead service line today. We need to remove lead pipes, we need to address these new emerging toxic chemicals from industrial pollutants, like [inaudible 00:27:23] contamination, these forever chemicals, they stay around forever, and they're in our water, and we need new treatment systems to remove them from our water. So the costs are going up to address emerging contaminants, removing more and more of these industrial pollutants from our water.

Mary Grant: And at the same time our climate is changing. Climate change is going to have a devastating effect on our water systems. If you're a coastal, it's going to inundate your water systems flooded, you're going to have to move your wastewater treatment plant. That's a massive expense. So nationally, our water systems need to spend at least $35 billion each year, just to comply with existing federal Standards. That's not to prepare for climate change, or to address other issues, it's just the existing federal standards, $35 billion a year. So there's this massive need, and the federal funding isn't there anymore.

Mary Grant: So what's happening is that localities are having to make these investments on their own. And how they do that is by raising rates on people. There has been a huge push at the begin in the 90s about full cost pricing of water service, not using tax dollars to subsidize water. And so the full cost of water service is reflected on water bills. And water bills are one of the most regressive bills you pay. Disproportionately, low income households pay more of their income on water service than they do on taxes or any other type of revenue raising vehicle. So it's just a really regressive way to raise money and it's hurting and hitting poor people and working families the hardest, and they're seeing their water bills go up dramatically.

Mary Grant: Nina's investigation provided some really shocking details about dumps some of the largest cities in the country, but we're seeing it across the board. Water rates going up to a level that people just simply can't afford to pay. I live in Baltimore and water rates have gone up since 2000 by about 10% a year for the last two decades.

Quinn: 10% a year?

Mary Grant: 10% a year. Let me tell you, wages are not going up by 10% a year.

Quinn: No.

Mary Grant: It's just the price of water is colliding with households ability to pay. More and more people simply cannot afford to pay their water bills. A Michigan State University study found that at least 12% of households across the country couldn't pay several years ago. And they found that by this year, as many as one in three households could struggle to pay their water bill. And it's because it's becoming so unaffordable, costs are going up, federal support isn't there, and the bills are just beyond people's means. And then we have a pandemic on top of it. This is even before the pandemic. And then to add a global pandemic, economic devastation, millions of people out of work are lost wages. It's just like a real crisis now.

Quinn: Right, so 35 billion, say day to day, and that doesn't include everything that's backdated, antiquated all of the newer chemicals devised and implemented since 1977 or, what is the word again? Oh, climate change, right. So that doesn't include those things. All right. So what what I would like to do, because we try to boil this thing down, these things as much as possible down to systems thinking and first principles. So, we have these super antiquated water systems, we have climate change, we have industrial agriculture, drawing down so much water, for example in the southwest. Again, Brian and I are usually both in Los Angeles, which is just straight up running out of water at some point. Colorado, river is whatever, half as high as it used to be, and you get states just fighting over it every three months.

Quinn: So if we're looking at this from a capitalist perspective, right? It would make sense the water's becoming more expensive, right? There's more and more toxic chemicals in our environment. So not only do filtration systems need to be very good, these systems need massive repairs, which cost money. And, of course, in the system we've devised, the revenue, of course comes from customers, whether they can pay it or not. But also, the product, as we've described, Colorado River snow packs, et cetera, et cetera, the product's becoming more scarce, which usually in the marketplace, makes the price a little higher.

Quinn: Again, trying to look at these thing, so called objectively, but again, it is the one thing that every human needs. So there's that, too. And there's the fact that this would be a different conversation. Like so many things in this country if it was affecting everyone equally, and it's not. And to be clear, that is most likely by design. Are all of these things... Is this why the federal government's... This is what we talk about with climate change, which is so great that these states have these pacts, and we've got these regional things. And California makes their own decisions, and sometimes people jump on to it. But the federal government's necessary, right, because of the pure cold, hard cash, the volume of cash that is required, right? Nobody has the kind of money that they do to do what is necessary. And I guess, are these things, are all of these pieces, is that why they are so necessary? And states and cities and localities haven't been able to keep up with this in the long term? Am I thinking about this clearly?

Mary Grant: I just want to say that the money is there. We support a bill called the Water Act, the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability Act. It's in Congress right now. It has more than 85 co sponsors in the house. This bill would just simply roll back the Trump administration's corporate income tax cuts by a little bit, just a tiny rollback of it. Increase the corporate income tax rate by 3.5 percentage points, tiny rollback of the corporate tax cuts under the Trump administration, and you would fully fund our water and sewer systems across the country, you would meet that $35 billion a year need to make sure that people have access to safe and affordable water. The problem isn't the money. The problem is political will.

Quinn: Sure, sure, sure. But I just I'm just trying to figure out where the holes are, what the scope of this thing is. Because there are certain things where you go like, "Oh, states have done some things." And we always push local action. Because for instance, for clean energy, that's where the jobs are going to be. Or climate change, it's the water you're drinking or the air you're breathing. But there is always a gaping hole when the federal government's not involved when massive mountains need to be moved. So let's talk about the Water Act, then. What is the scope of this thing? Who wrote it? Who's to supporting it? Et cetera, et cetera.

Mary Grant: Sure. So the bill is introduced in the House by Representative Brenda Lawrence from Michigan and in the Senate by Senator Sanders. It's HR 1417 S611, the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability Act. It's the third Congress that's been introduced in. And in each time it's reintroduced it's growing every year. It's a funding bill. It's about funding our water systems to take the burden off of households, to take the burden off of struggling cities and localities. It would restore that federal commitment to safe water by providing $35 billion a year to a trust fund. So this is money that can be diverted. It doesn't need further appropriations. There's not that budget battle that we see every year just to get every nickel and dime from the federal government.

Mary Grant: It would create a trust fund to say water is not a partisan issue. We're just going to fully fund our water systems. Take it out of these budget battles, these political battles in Congress and create a trust fund by rolling back those corporate income tax cuts to make corporations pay their fair share. A lot of our water problems are happening because of industrial pollution. So to restore that federal government commitment, rollback a little bit of the Trump administration's corporate tax cuts, take that money and dedicate it to making sure that people have access to safe water. At first, it seems really common sense. Of course, we should be restoring that federal government commitment. And to make sure that people have access to water, they can turn on the tap, everyone can turn on the tap and have safe water flowing and be able to have safe communities and clean waterways.

Nina Lakhani: And the Act has has some provision to help people of low income communities, low income people with affordability, is that right Mary? As well.

Mary Grant: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nina Lakhani: Yeah. And so I think that's an important point because for years now, there has been federal funding to help, that states can apply for, to help low income residents with their energy bills and with their telecoms bills, those have been recognized as essential taxes. But there isn't anything similar for water. And I do think part of the reason is that water affordability wasn't really an issue maybe 10 years ago, due to me, not until about 10 years ago. So I do think it's an emerging poverty factor issue. And that there is federal money and federal help for these other services.

Nina Lakhani: And I think just to add to what Mary was saying, regarding political will, in the same way, if there was a real commitment to tackling inequalities in education, and I mean that in standards and infrastructure, et cetera, you would have federal money for that. You wouldn't leave it up to localities, to states and to districts and cities to pay for schools, but pay for education, right? You only do that if you're really serious about tackling inequalities that have long term lasting effects on kids and their potential and so forth and our families. Then you wouldn't have funding set up like that. But I think the way of thinking in the state here is designed, at least it has been for the last few decades, really to serve the interests of the haves and not the have nots.

Nina Lakhani: And I think the system is set up and designed to maintain the status quo, and to exacerbate these inequalities rather than to tackle them. And water is just another example of that. And so I think that water is that... There are was so many challenges, and without federal oversight, without federal dollars, without federal sources and input, there isn't a way to resolve this, there isn't always to resolve it.

Nina Lakhani: There are 55,000 community water systems in the US. And on top of that, 40 million plus Americans get their water from private wells, which are completely unregulated. So without a federal system, in the same way, while we can take individual steps to tackle the climate crisis, we cannot tackle the climate crisis in global heating as individuals, it has to be coordinated global response, which is why the US withdrawing from the Paris Treaty and agreement is just devastating for the globe.

Nina Lakhani: And there are things that we can do as individuals, but there has to be federal input. Because right now, what individuals and families in Detroit are being punished, and thousands of people in Detroit have had their water off, many corporations, many businesses, polluting businesses have got debt, outstanding bills that are not being collected. That is the most perverse aspects of this, of capitalism in the near liberal model, right? It is not working, it's not working for ordinary people, it's not working for the planet.

Quinn: And again, the parallels to so many other situations, which again, like looking at this from a systems point of view, these things are all connected in so many ways in the fact that each of these levers pulls on one another, but also, again, this system was designed this way and is working excellently. Which is again, from jobs to food insecurity, whether because of affordability or because food deserts, again, your air and your water because you're forced to live near a highway or near, if you're in Los Angeles, you live near one of our 3000 oil wells. It just goes on and on. And again, it's the same people, and it's the federal government abdicating purposefully, the responsibility to take care of its citizens.

Nina Lakhani: Can I just add one thing? I just think that I really didn't... I'm probably naive not to have really realized this until I was working in Mexico and Central America. And because it's the same everywhere that politicians are elected officials, to me and including in the US, are really the second tier of power. They are governing, they govern to serve the interests of the economic powers, that economic elites, these conglomerates and multinationals, those that control the money. And they do that by campaigning to have tax breaks to deregulate, to not pay their fair share. Do you know what I mean? I'm talking from everyone, from fossil fuel companies to Pepsi and Coke, who are using our water resource to bottle and sell to us in plastic bottles, Amazon. They are the ones that govern the world. The elected officials are there governing on their behalf. And you can see that through campaign financing, through lobbying, et cetera.

Nina Lakhani: And I think that is what neoliberalism is. And that is in it's that[inaudible 00:41:18]. These aren't politicians. It's not all ideology. Some of it might be, but in the end, the project that these groups share is making money. That's it.

Quinn: Sure.. And that's just never been. If it was a question before, it's never been more clear than when you see these dueling headlines on the front page of your New York Times, your Apple News or your Twitter, whatever, that says that 100 million Americans aren't going to be able to pay rent in eight days, and the stock market's peaking. And you go like, "Oh." Got it. It's working truly, incredibly well for some people, and just not at all, literally not at all for everyone else. And again, it's like, you know how they say, I'm sure this doesn't hold up, but it's like, money reveals who you are, right? And turns out a pandemic just reveals the cracks in the facade, right? It takes off... If you're looking at a motor, and you pull off the fancy cover and you look underneath, you can either look at a motor that's working exceptionally well which ours is and in some ways for the people who designed it, and and for everyone else, you just go, "Oh, my God, it's leaking everywhere."

Brian: Can I ask what seems like a simple question, just to take it back down to ground level. Why is it so hard to turn water back on? And with COVID, it's become clear that this is an issue. People are literally stuck inside their homes and it's their water source for drinking and cooking and washing their hands. Or, like you mentioned Nina, maybe making sure that their house doesn't burn down. What's so hard? Is it is it logistical?

Nina Lakhani: I'll have a go at that. I think there's multiple things. Some cities or towns or water departments don't have good records on who they've turned off and who they haven't. Philadelphia did. So for example, many, I think it's 55% or something income public water utilities, yeah, issued or announced moratoriums on shutoffs at some point during the pandemic, and some of those, about a small proportion of those committed to reconnecting people. Now, Philadelphia was a really good example in that they proactively went out and reconnected, I think almost 9000 households. Imagine that, 9000 households just in the city of Philadelphia didn't have water at that point, that blows my mind. And so they did that.

Nina Lakhani: New Orleans on the other hand, which from food and water, what Mary's organization's research we know is one of the worst cities when it comes to shutting off people. Almost one in five households are shut off at some point in a year. In the same period of time, in four months, So I last asked them, I think at the end of May or maybe the beginning of June, maybe begin of June, they had only managed to reconnect less than 200 households. That does not reflect the need at all. So I think this in terms of actually how well set up water departments are organized, what their records are like, but you do have to send out technicians to do that.

Nina Lakhani: And when a house has been shut off for quite an amount of time, a significant amount of time, there are issues depending on the infrastructure, the age of infrastructure and so forth in making sure that the water runs a certain amount of time in certain forces to make sure that water then run through is safe and clean. So it's not just a simple matter of turning the taps on. If the water has been shut off for a significant amount of time, I think that's Mary...

Mary Grant: Yeah. Then lead builds up in the pipes, since you need to flush your pipes to make sure you don't get contaminated with lead. I also want to flag that a lot of communities across the country, when the pandemic first started reaching across the United States in March, did suspend water shut offs and pass local moratoriums, and some of them, like Detroit, like California also ordered re connections, however these are expiring. Michigan recently expanded the order to the end of the year, California's indefinite. But in other cities like New Orleans, it could end any minute now. It was technically supposed to end on Monday. So [inaudible 00:45:50] the July 20th, they haven't announced that they're almost going out and shutting off people again yet. So hopefully they'll continue to suspend shout outs.

Mary Grant: But across the country, in Jacksonville Florida, right? Right before the GOP convention hits in August, they're beginning to shut off hundreds of people, hundreds of households every day. And Miami, and a lot of communities across the country shut offs are resuming. Cities are opening up, states are opening up, people are sending people back to work. Some states are even talking about sending kids back to school. It's kind of scary. At the same time that cases are going up so much. People are losing these basic utilities. That's why one of the things we hope to have happen in the next Coronavirus relief package that the Senate is debating in early August is that we'll pass a nationwide shutoff moratorium. We need to make sure that no one loses water service during a pandemic. It's just outrageous. It's not only about human health, it's about protecting public health. We need everyone to have running water at home so that they can wash their hands, flush their toilets, take care of themselves and their families but also their communities, so that we can help fight this really, really scary virus.

Nina Lakhani: I mean, just let me just to quickly just mention New Orleans as an example. New Orleans is one of the cities that was part of my investigation. And I think if I had to name the worst city, in terms of affordability, New Orleans would be it. Not only do they shut off an incredibly high number of households every year, but the bills have been going up, have doubled between 2010 and 2018. And they had, the highest proportion of low income and very low income people who are already in neighborhoods with unaffordable bills. And so, something like 20 almost like 30% or so of the total population of New Orleans already is getting unaffordable, receiving unaffordable bills, and that's going to rise as we go forward.

Nina Lakhani: But the thing about New Orleans that really gets me is that the water is also toxic, right? They Get their water from the Mississippi River. They're right at this basin end. So all of that agricultural [inaudible 00:48:07] runoff from Ohio and all these other places, comes to New Orleans. Their water treatment plant is 80 years old, something like that. This is like my next city of interest that I'm going to work on. And so what residents do is they're forced to buy bottled water because the water is not drinkable. So they're technically paying two bills per month.

Nina Lakhani: They're paying this increasingly more expensive water bill if they can, but they're also buying bottled water. So if you're a person that are low income, and you've got limited funds, what do you do? Do you buy bottled water so that you can actually live? Or do you pay for your water bill, which actually, you can't even drink that water because it's too toxic? And that New Orleans by no means is the only example where people are paying hell of a lot of money. Like up to 12% or more of their income is what their bill is every month, and they're having to buy bottled water because the water is toxic.

Quinn: And if you enjoy that fact kids, we've got a wonderful conversation coming out about the micro plastics that come from water bottles. Anyways,

Brian: Yeah, we've gone on a real water [inaudible 00:49:20] kick lately.

Nina Lakhani: It's so depressing like it really, yeah. It's bizarre, isn't it? That's something that is free, that falls out of the sky, it's in rivers, and yet people can't access clean affordable running water even though it's free to the world, to the planet, it's a gift.

Brian: It's just insane.

Nina Lakhani: That's just crazy.

Brian: Let's talk about private water companies for a minute and their refusal to turn over information which is actually a lot like Netflix. Except instead of romantic comedies and Chris Hemsworth hostage movies, we're talking about water shutoffs. We understand that something like 90% of Americans get their water from a public utility. But again, the other 10% that's still 30 something million Americans, do we know what these rates these companies charge?

Quinn: And also correct all of our numbers on, please.

Brian: Yeah, because I think it's a lot, right. I think it's bad.

Mary Grant: Yeah. So about half of water systems are privately owned, but only about 10% of people with water service, get it from a privately owned system. So most of the private systems are tiny. As Nina said before, there's 50,000 water systems across the country. But most of these are super tiny. So private water systems tend to be smaller. They're the smaller systems. Most of our big cities, their public, and that's because during the Progressive Era, we bought and took over our privately owned water systems. There used to be a water company serving San Francisco, a private company in San Francisco, a private company in New York City. And these systems, they didn't serve poor people. They didn't extend the lines out to poor neighborhoods and lead to a cholera epidemic. They also didn't increase pressure enough to fight fires. So there was massive property destruction.

Mary Grant: So around the turn of the 20th century, in the early 1900s, late 1800s, a lot of cities, big cities bought their water systems from these really bad actors, these private companies, it just wasn't working. And it's interesting, particularly in the south, that move to public ownership actually improved water quality and water access, disproportionately granting them much more so for black populations. And Louisiana led that move to public ownership actually led to greater water access for black communities in the south.

Mary Grant: So there's a lot of really interesting history about water ownership in the US. But right now, like you said, about 10% of people, a small portion get it from privately owned systems. But in some states, like New Jersey, it's 40% of people. So they're concentrated in a couple of states. New Jersey, we're seeing a lot of privatization activity. These companies are pretty aggressive. There's a couple handful of large companies that are super aggressive, going after governments that are struggling right now. Not struggling not, especially in the pandemic, they're struggling with cash flow issues, some of these small to medium sized water authorities, and they're just struggling to pay their vendors, pay day to day because the loss of industrial and commercial revenue. Businesses aren't operating so they don't have that money coming in. So yeah, so they're really aggressive in a couple states and it does lead to significantly higher water rates.

Mary Grant: Our research has found that, on average private companies charge 59% more. But even though they're charging more we would expect higher rates of shut offs in these communities. We just don't have that data. We've requested it multiple times, they just refuse to tell us how they're shutting off. So we don't have basic metrics to gauge how they're doing.

Quinn: Well it's frustrating. If only there was legislation, someone with capacity could help clear all that stuff up.

Brian: If only.

Nina Lakhani: One thing just to add to that is that this is a real risk time, isn't it Mary? In terms of a lot of a lot of the smaller water systems are really struggling right now. And so I do think just to emphasize that there's been lots of lobbying by the private water company groups on the hill, trying to, because they are very keen to gobble up some of these water systems, these public water systems and make them into profitable companies. And that we know, from lots of different metrics, does not serve the public, the community. It does not result in better quality affordable water, quite the opposite. And so, I think it's a very high risk time for those smaller water systems in particular who are struggling to pay the bills to maintain the [inaudible 00:53:58].

Quinn: Well, let's move into some action here, since I feel like people have a pretty good idea of that picture and are probably pretty angry.

Brian: Oh, just crying.

Quinn: Let's empower them here.

Brian: Yeah, we love to provide some specific action steps that our listeners can take to support you and support what you're doing. Their voice, their vote and their dollar. So let's start with with their voice. What can all of us, what big actionable specific questions can we be asking of our representatives, our government representatives to help you guys?

Quinn: And then you mentioned there's the stimulus bill that's being voted on, I believe you said August 7th, is that correct?

Mary Grant: Yeah, sometime before August 7th, this bill should be able to pass.

Quinn: Okay.

Mary Grant: The next Coronavirus stimulus. We're hopeful. Yeah.

Quinn: Sorry, if you could just detail out for everybody how that's different from the Water Act. So what would hopefully be in the stimulus bill and then again, what the story is with the Water Act?

Mary Grant: Sure. So I would say the top two actions that you can urge your Congress members to take right now, for the immediate need, we need to keep the water on for everyone right now during this pandemic. We need to keep the water on. So call your senator, call them. It takes about a minute. And it's the easiest and most powerful thing you can do, to reach out to your senator. They get emails all the time, calling them is so important. And it's quick, it takes about a minute. So calling your senator, urging them to take action on the next Coronavirus relief package to make sure that there's a national moratorium on water shutoffs. This is the first thing you can do to address immediate need. And then in longer term, what we need to do and to really reform transform how we pay for our water is to pass the Water Act. Again, that's HR 1417 S611. So reaching out to your elected official, urging them, your Congress members, urging them to co sponsor the Water Act, to take action and to make sure that people have access to safe water.

Mary Grant: So one, right now, immediately get out your phone. It's 202-609-9041, that's the senate switchboard. Again, that's 202-609-9041, you'll be connected with your own senate office, you tell them Hi, your name, what zip code you live in. And to say that you're calling to ask the senator to fight to pass a national moratorium on water, power and broadband shut offs and the next Coronavirus relief package. Just short, sweet, simple, it takes about a minute. And it is the most effective thing you can do right now to make sure that your senator hears from you.

Quinn: Awesome. That's great. That's the type of specificity we are looking for. And then I guess maybe after that vote is done. Tell them what specifically should they be saying about the Water Act besides just sign on to the water act?

Mary Grant: Sure. So you can visit at foodandwaterwatch.org and you can take action there. We have an online petition where you can reach out and email your senator directly or your representative directly, and we're asking them to co sponsor the Water Act right now. Right now there are 85 co sponsors in the house. There's four in the Senate. We just need more and more names [crosstalk 00:57:00].

Quinn: Four? Oh, come on.

Mary Grant: I know.So there's definitely room to grow and power to build that we need to make sure that we can pass a comprehensive solution that really addresses our access to water in this country.

Brian: Rock and Roll.

Quinn: Nina, anything from your side?

Nina Lakhani: Two things. One, just to note that those 89 lawmakers that are currently have signed the Water Act, they are all Democrats. Not a single Republican has signed. And water affordability is a nationwide, I wouldn't even call it a crisis, I call it an emergency, I feel like it's America's water emergency, in terms of quality and safety and affordability et cetera. And so, I think we really need to... If any of your listeners are in Republican states, to really be, and are struggling with water quality, safety, affordability, any of those things, to really urge their representatives and their senators to join this, to to sign up this bill. Because I think what one does, something that others would be more likely to follow.

Nina Lakhani: This is not a bipartisan issue, I'm sorry a partisan issue. It should be something that everybody's concerned about. It's crazy that every lawmaker isn't worried about the fact that water is not available. It's not available to everybody. And I think as a journalist, I would say, I thought of our deal on reporting that we're doing on America's water crisis, we've got a call out, which you can find on our website. And asking for help to test water quality across the UK, US sorry, so people can get into that and help us with that and offer to help us with that.

Nina Lakhani: And also, I just think, if you are struggling to pay your bill, if you've had your water shut off or you've had [inaudible 00:58:59] to your house, find your local newspaper, find your local media organization, get a local reporter interested. I ended up getting into this because I saw reporting in local areas. It wasn't national, national and international press. Totally rely on local reporting. And find out who's interested. Someone who's interested in justice issues or environmental issues, ring them, send them an email, get them interested, and that will actually help develop, I think, just more transparency and more of a consciousness in terms of this issue.

Quinn: Awesome. That's great. Good news is our local newspapers definitely haven't been devastated here for the past 10 years, so that's going to be a really easy thing to do. Anyways-

Brian: Ladies, what can our listeners do with their dollar to help support this mission?

Nina Lakhani: Well, what's the name of that organization? Is it [inaudible 00:59:59] came out of Detroit, Mary?

Mary Grant: Human Utility. Yeah, Human Utility is a great organization that actually pays water bills for people in Detroit and Baltimore. So you can visit them and then you can set up your payments and they'll come directly and provide that relief to those households on the ground. There's also a lot of other organizations, grassroots organizations that are doing really great work to address this immediate need. I know of a lot in Detroit right now, like We The People of Detroit, groups like Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, really doing on the ground work to make sure that people have access to water right now.

Nina Lakhani: Yeah.

Quinn: Awesome. Go ahead please.

Nina Lakhani: There's some amazing women from the Navajo Nation, months ago set up a relief fund on a GoFundMe page, which has just gone crazy, like brilliantly so. And so, other tribal nations also have got similar pages and I think in terms of actually in this immediate crisis, helping make sure that Native Americans like all Americans have access to water. So if there are a stay at home order, they don't have to break those in order to go and find water. Do you know what I me? That there are some quite good possibilities.

Quinn: Great. Well, we will find those and put those in the show notes. For sure. Those are all super helpful. Thank you guys so much. Again, the action is the point. We try to piss people off and then point them in the right direction. Okay, last couple questions, and we're going to get you guys out of here. I know you got to run. For each of you. These are a little more philosophical. When was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful?

Nina Lakhani: Oh, God, Mary you go first.

Brian: I love it.

Mary Grant: I think a lot of people who care about organizing, who care about grassroots movement, it comes from the student movement in high school and college. Really getting together and sitting in in offices and knowing that you can force people, these people who should be accountable to you. You can sit in that direct action and call on them to take action. I know a few organizing days, there were a lot of creative tactics that we used that were just fun and energizing. So not only that direct action, calling on that decision maker to take action, but it was also energizing for the community to take that action. So I think that's when I knew that I loved organizing. I loved working with organizers.

Mary Grant: Well, most of what I do is more policy. I really love working with organizers and bringing people together to make that change that needs to happen. And I know there's a lot of money interests out there that we're fighting, but I really do believe in the power of bringing people together to make change. I think that we do have a really big voice when we come together and that it's so important that we do come together now in this moment in this emergency, in this crisis, to make sure that everyone has access to water.

Brian: I love that. Nina?

Nina Lakhani: [inaudible 01:03:08]. I don't do any of that stuff at all. Yeah.

Brian: We all have our strengths.

Nina Lakhani: I guess I just I've always really been driven by a desire, when I see an injustice, calling it out, and really giving a voice to people that don't have a voice, to people who are powerless. because of systems and structures and institutions. That's very much what attracted me to mental health. I think [inaudible 01:03:37] my mental health life and my journeys in life have so much in common, in terms of actually listening to people is so powerful. I think when you travel hundreds of miles to go and sit and talk to somebody and really listen to them, it's an incredibly powerful thing for people to be heard. We all need to be heard and feel that our stories and are valuable they're important. [inaudible 01:04:05], who I mentioned, the man in Cleveland. I think just being heard and realizing that this hadn't just happened to him was incredibly important.

Nina Lakhani: so I think that that aspect and also accountability, I'm a journalist because I want change. I want to tell these stories and hold people in power and organizations and powerful structures to account, and so yeah, I guess that's what I'm driven by.

Brian: Well, that's a pretty fantastic answer to me. Again, last couple, who is someone in your life that has positively impacted your work in the past six months?

Nina Lakhani: Mary you go.

Mary Grant: So, one of our board chair is [inaudible 01:04:57], and I absolutely love her. She's a water warrior and I've had an experience to talk with her more recently, just being in communication with her a lot. She really inspires me, she wrote a new book about blue communities and how communities around the world, globally are fighting against privatization against the commodification of water and for the human right to water. And so I think she's just a really inspiring person, and I love her a lot. So I think [inaudible 01:05:22], for me would be my inspiration within the last six months.

Quinn: Awesome. That's exactly why we ask this question.

Nina Lakhani: So I'm going to go back to [inaudible 01:05:31], just because his story made me so angry. I was so enraged and infuriated by it that, and I met him first week of February. So that was like a month, four or five weeks after I started getting into this investigation, and it has powered me through. Then the pandemic hit and I've been stuck in my apartment trying to do my job. But he's dignity and his struggle was very motivating because it just made me so angry. And so yeah, hats off to [inaudible 01:06:09] and what he's been through. And his continued and fight and struggle for justice.

Quinn: Awesome. That works. That works.

Brian: Okay, last one. The most fun. So, boy, you're lucky. If you could send each of you one book to Donald Trump to read or have read to him, what would it be?

Nina Lakhani: A dictionary.

Brian: We've got a... Yes.

Quinn: Dictionary, done.

Brian: And do it.

Quinn: And we, just for context, we have this amazing list of now like 90 recommendations from past guests, they're all up on bookshop and people can buy them, et cetera, et cetera. But we've got everything from coloring books to the Constitution. So.

Brian: Mary?

Mary Grant: Oh, wow! I don't know. Would it be helpful for him to read a book?

Brian: Not sure.

Quinn: You can go down a rabbit hole on the pros and cons of this but-

Brian: We did not pass that one off to Mary [crosstalk 01:07:12].

Quinn: Tell you what, Mary, if you think of something, send it to us and we'll throw it on the list.

Mary Grant: Okay, great.

Quinn: Awesome. Guys, where can our listeners follow you online?

Nina Lakhani: So I'm online, if you type in my name the Nina Lakhani at The Guardian, and you'll come up with my profile page. So all the stories I publish for The Guardian are on there. And on Twitter I'm @ninalakhani, Instagram, I think I'm @NinaLakhaniNews.

Brian: Excellent.

Quinn: Awesome.

Mary Grant: Visit us at foodandwaterwatch.org, that's foodandwaterwatch.org. And I'm on Twitter, @marygrant_water. So sad.

Quinn: Awesome. Easy enough. Well, listen, we cannot thank you enough for your time today, at least of all, but also, for all the work you guys are doing for all the folks who are just trying to have water, which seems like the most basic human right. But we have a lot of things to work on in this country. And that's why we're oriented towards action. We wanted to understand this better. And you guys have helped do that for us tonight. And I think a lot of our listeners too. So we're excited to send them out in the streets to cause some good trouble. So thank you, again, thank you for your time.

Brian: So much.

Quinn: And hopefully, we can have an update on this at some point in the future and show where that work has gone.

Nina Lakhani: Thanks very much.

Mary Grant: Yeah, thank you so much.

Quinn: Thanks to our incredible guests today. And thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dish-washing or fucking dog walking late at night, that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at importantnotimportant.com, it is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.

Brian: And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter @importantnotimp, just so weird. Also on Facebook and Instagram at importantnotimportant. Pinterest and Tumblr the same thing. So check us out, follow us share us like us, you know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. And if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcasts. Keep the lights on. Thanks.

Quinn: Please.

Brian: And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, importantnotimportant.com.

Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blaine for our jam and music, to all of you for listening. And finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day.

Brian: Thanks, guys.