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Senate passes global clean water bill

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate Monday approved a bill intended to help 100 million people around the world gain access to clean water and sanitation during the next six years.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill. -- who, along with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is a co-sponsor of the Water for the World Act -- said the bill makes water a major U.S. overseas development priority.

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"Access to safe drinking water is a right that everyone in the world ought to enjoy but too few are able to realize," Durbin said in a news release. "Water access is no longer simply a global health and development issue; it is a mortal and long-term threat that is increasingly becoming a national security issue."

Durbin said the United States must to do "much more to ensure that global water access is protected and expanded."

Corker said the bill will improve foreign aid efforts in a time when "foreign aid dollars are limited."

"A lack of clean water leads to the deaths of 1.8 million people each year -- 90 percent of them children," Corker said. "It stifles economic growth, keeps women and girls from going to work and school, and has contributed to political unrest in Sudan and elsewhere."

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Corker cited research indicating every dollar spent on safe drinking water and sanitation produces an $8 return.

An estimated 1.2 billion people lack access to clean, safe water and 2 billion lack access to basic sanitation, the statement said.

The bill next goes to the House, where two Democratic members, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Donald Payne of New Jersey, have introduced similar legislation.

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