From California to Cambodia, nearly 800 million people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water, while one in three people don't have access to hygienic toilets. Touching on so many areas of basic health and well-being, these are critical components to achieving adequate shelter for the roughly 1.6 billion people who live without it today. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Over the course of the next weeks, Congress has the power to pass the Sen. Paul Simon Water for the World Act (H.R. 2901), a straightforward, cost-neutral bill that has incredible potential to change millions of lives for the better.

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No other U.S. government initiative to date offers the same promise of ensuring that marginalized and low-income families around the world have access to lifesaving water and toilets. In an age of partisan gridlock, the Water for the World Act is strikingly non-controversial, offering health and dignity to millions of people simply by making U.S. investments in existing programs more effective and transparent.

What’s more, the Water for the World Act won’t cost taxpayers a penny more. Tens of thousands of Americans have contacted Congress to say that they want a world where everyone has basic access to safe water and toilets, and a record 103 members of Congress from across the political spectrum have responded by committing their support.

But time is running out and the legislation has yet to pass.

As organizations deeply invested in long-term development and ending poverty around the world, we at Habitat for Humanity and WaterAid are deeply concerned. The connection between safe homes, water and adequate sanitation is undeniable—and the transformative benefits immeasurable.

Take Chen Phon, for example. When Chen lost his right leg and eye to a Khmer Rouge landmine, he never dreamed that water would be the source of his future happiness. Merely surviving with his injuries posed a daily struggle in the small Cambodian village of Kor Tro Keat, where the change of season meant losing the water source on which his small farm relied.

Chen’s challenging journey took a new course in 2007 when Habitat for Humanity Cambodia began building wells and working to improve sanitation. With a well built in his village and having access to clean water, Chen’s farm now thrives. He provides food for his family — along with income from extra produce. Even Chen’s self-esteem has improved as he proudly wears clothes that he can now keep clean. The well, Chen says, has given him hope.

Similarly, in Madagascar, more than 4,000 children die each year from diarrheal diseases linked to the lack of safe water, basic toilets and hand-washing. Like so many of the women and girls that WaterAid works with around the world, 12-year old friends Solo and Ze  get up at 5 a.m. each day to hike to a dirty water hole to collect contaminated drinking water for their families in 40-pound jerry cans. Because they must make the danger-fraught trip six to seven times per day, they are forced to drop out of school.   

With tools to make water and toilets an accessible reality, the stories of many people can change dramatically. Tailoring solutions to need, local context and the most appropriate options for families and communities, Habitat and WaterAid have seen first-hand that water, sanitation and hygiene are among the most cost-effective investments available for reducing poverty;  economic benefits range from $5 to $46 for every dollar invested due to increased health and productivity.

It’s time to close the deal. The Water for the World Act offers millions of people a better quality of life and addresses a life-or-death issue that touches all aspects of decent living — including health, education, safety and well-being. Join us in asking Congress to give hope now to more people worldwide by sending the Water for the World Act to the President’s desk before the end of the year.

Reckford is CEO of Habitat for Humanity and Prabasi is CEO of WaterAid America.