Environmental Advocacy Starts at a Young Age

As a policy scientist for the University of Delaware Water Resource Center (WRC), I have the opportunity to serve on the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign’s (Clean Water Campaign) steering committee. The campaign, that has a mission to secure dedicated and sustainable funding for improved water quality in Delaware, is mostly focused on adults and the role they can play to advocate for clean water in Delaware. But, through my work with Children and Nature and the Delaware Association for Environmental Education (DAEE), I see the natural connection between teaching children about the importance of the environment around us and their interest in supporting efforts like the Clean Water Campaign as they grow older.

At WRC we work daily to improve and sustain clean water. The WRC’s efforts are clearly demonstrated in the DAEE’s mission to promote environmental education and awareness and the Clean Water Campaign’s work to secure dedicated clean water funding. After all, all three of our organizations focus on improving the environment for generations to come.

Our Clean Water Campaign is made up of an alliance of diverse stakeholder groups including nonprofit organizations, academia and businesses. And if you ask any of them why they care so much about clean water and are willing to be a part of the Clean Water Alliance, they’ll tell you a story of playing in a creek as a kid, an interesting science unit from elementary school, or an overnight camping trip they took at camp. It’s experiences like these that spark interest for years to come.

But, right now in Delaware, according to the State of Delaware Clean Water and Flood Abatement Task Force, we need to find sustainable funding for the over $100 million annual backlog we have in current “clean water needs” to just meet our state and federal water quality standards.

This backlog will continue to add up if we don’t address this now. Recognizing this, the Clean Water Campaign is working to ensure we don’t leave a bigger “water quality mess” for your students to clean up in 30 years. The Clean Water Campaign has suggested a number of effective funding models to decision makers on every level to decrease this extensive funding gap. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. The campaign, and its Alliance Members, have helped secure the most clean water funding in the annual budget ever seen in Delaware history. But the work isn’t over.

The Clean Water Campaign could use your help. Our mission is a natural fit for the DAEE community. In order to ensure an environment, and more specifically clean water, for generations to come we must ensure that Delaware’s formal and informal educators are aware of the clean water issues and funding gaps and efforts throughout the state. Educating our youth to be clean water stewards and to act as water advocates is critical to Delaware’s future. Clean water is essential to just about every aspect of our lives. From the small-scale aspects like taking a shower to its ability to enhance Delaware’s place in our national and global economy, water is important. We must be investing in water now so we have a better Delaware for generations to come.

More information about Delaware’s Clean Water Campaign and becoming a Clean Water Alliance member can be found at http://cleanwaterdelaware.org/.

Martha Narvaez is a policy scientist with University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration Water Resources Center (WRC). WRC is a member of the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice Campaign.