Climate Justice

The Unthinkable Undrinkable: A Fight for Clean Water

Four United Methodist Women members embark on a climate justice journey.

The Unthinkable Undrinkable: A Fight for Clean Water

When four young women met at a climate justice event in 2016, they quickly realized they’d be working together for a long time. 

The women first met at United Methodist Women's New Generations for Climate Justice program, which is a platform for younger members to become advocates for ending climate injustice. The program began with a 10-week online course, followed by a retreat and then a training at Mission u in Tempe, Arizona. Kayleigh Vickers, Kirsten Rumsey, Cassie Garcia and Kelly Schafer had been participating in the online workshops as part of the program, but once they met in person they decided to keep pursuing the issue they were most interested in — access to clean water.

They applied for a Theressa Hoover Grant to further investigate water and sanitation in the United States, and in the Spring of 2017 the group was awarded a $10,000 grant to study the causes for unclean water and its effect on communities. By studying water within the U.S., the women “hope to show people that water quality issues are not only global problems, seen in third-world countries, but that they happen in our backyard as well.”

Three Different Regions

The group will travel to three different regions in the U.S. — rural West Virginia, Flint, Michigan, and Standing Rock, North Dakota — which have either been affected by unsafe water or have a water source that is being threatened. In all three regions, women and children are especially hard hit when it comes to unsafe water supplies.

Rural West Virginia – coal country – was devastated by floods in 2016, which destroyed land and threatened the area’s drinking water. The flooding was most likely a result of the coal mining that provides income for many of the families living there.

The residents of Flint, Michigan, have been subjected to lead-contaminated drinking water since 2014. In Flint, as in many other places in the U.S., low-income communities and communities of color have been disproportionately affected.

Finally, in North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux nation has been fighting to stop the building of the Dakota Access pipeline, which is to be built near sacred burial ground and could threaten the area’s water supply.

In each location the women will speak with residents to hear the stories from within the community. They will also gather water supply data and information from local organizations, and will document their findings in photos, video and reports. The information will then be compiled to create educational materials that can be distributed through United Methodist Women, the church and other organizations to promote awareness of the issue and to grow the movement for access to clean water for everyone.

The aim of the four women is two-fold. While the group wants to create greater awareness about unsafe water, they also want to raise a call for action and “inspire people to act and do their part to improve drinking water situations around the world.” Starting with United Methodist Women and Mission u, they hope to “spark intentional and faith-driven change” and to “continue to call the church to the fight for universal water quality.”

What was once considered unthinkable is now undrinkable. Access to safe and clean water is a basic human right, and these four women, as stewards of our earth, are working for everyone to have this right.

Posted or updated: 4/21/2017 12:00:00 AM