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  • Writer's pictureAlan S Kolok

May 1, 2021. Good Science News #14. Water and the political divide.

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Covid 19, a lethal virus, the initiator of a world wide pandemic that has taken the lives of over 3 million people, has been politicized.

It may seem hard to fathom that some would argue that neglecting to do the right thing by wearing a surgical mask during a pandemic could be construed as an act of freedom, but that is what has happened. Now, a full year after the mysterious virus made its way out of China, the safety and effectiveness of vaccines are also being questioned, and vaccination, like the wearing of a mask, has becoming a political issue.

As we are all aware, the political divide in the United States has become a chasm. With the U.S. Senate evenly split at 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, the divisiveness doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. The result is likely to be gridlock at worst, or bills squeaking through Congress as politicians do little more than vote along party lines.

Is there really nothing that we can all agree upon?

Well, there is water.

On April 29, the U.S. senate passed bill 914, the Drinking Water and Water Infrastructure Act. The vote wasn’t close, as 89 senators voted for it with only 2 voting against. The act reauthorizes the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, at increased funding levels, that will provide federal grants and loans to states and communities to upgrade their water infrastructure and promote water sustainability and resilience efforts. The bill also puts an increased focus on disadvantaged and rural communities that often struggle to adequately fund and maintain water infrastructure.

This is good news on more than one front. First, it demonstrates that, behind the political scene, our U.S. senators can work together to get bills passed. When the grandstanding it done, they do seem to have the capacity to work together.

Second, the infrastructure bill is needed. Many of our drinking water facilities are crumbling, in a manner that is consistent with our aging roads and bridges. Unlike roads and bridges, however, when drinking water systems fail, people can get sick, contract horrific diseases, such a cholera or typhoid and die. Apparently the U.S. senators got the memo, and took the threat seriously.

Third, there is a backhanded piece of Good Science News here as well. We only know about the existence of pathogenic bacteria in water due to scientific experiments and inquiry that were conducted in past decades (and centuries!). The importance of clean drinking water is not just common sense, but it is a public health necessity that has been backed up by scores of scientific studies, many of which were innovative and cutting-edge science at the time when they were conducted.

While it is tempting to view the current political divide on the Covid 19 virus as evidence that half of our country questions the integrity of the scientific process, that is just not the case. We don’t live in an era in which science is under question, far from it. Like the clothes we wear, or the blankets under which we sleep, centuries of scientific inquiry and innovation envelope us, keeping us safe and allowing us to reap the benefits of technological advancements.

Sure, there are highly publicized, and highly visible, issues that politicians use to grandstand to their constituents, Covid-19 being an unfortunate current example. When p

Good science news, indeed!

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