Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so many events and programs – and opportunities to meet with lawmakers about clean water – are hanging in the balance as we adjust to this “new normal.” Like you, we are staying home, spending time with our family members, wondering when restrictions may be lifted, determining our next steps, and getting out and enjoying every sunny day (while physically distancing, of course). Our personal interactions and advocacy programming might be restricted for the time being, but it doesn’t mean our community of Water Warriors and Clean Water Alliance Members must stop the good work we do. It just means we need to get creative in HOW we advocate.
Here’s a few steps you can take from home right now to improve Delaware’s water quality and show our decisionmakers you care.
Become a Clean Stream Champion!
Right now, New Castle County residents have the opportunity to become a Clean Stream Champion by doing simple things at home. By signing this pledge to commit to do the following 5 steps, you are showing your local and statewide officials you are willing to do your part to improve water quality, too!
- Scoop Your Pet Poop – Don’t leave it in your yard or on the sidewalk; it washes into our rivers and streams!
- Garden to Improve Water and Wildlife – Using native plants (plants local to us in Delaware) means you don’t need hazardous chemicals to keep them alive. Fewer chemicals means less pollution in our waterways!
- Ensure Only Rain Goes Down the Drain – Don’t dump soaps, chemicals, or even leaves/grass clippings down your neighborhood storm drains. It goes right into our rivers and streams and makes our sewer systems less efficient!
- Reduce the Use of Household Hazardous Chemicals – What goes down the kitchen or bathroom drain can end up in the water we drink or play in. Chemical cleaners, medications, paint, and lawn chemicals are common pollutants that can pass through water treatment plants and end up in our waterways.
- Cease the Grease – Don’t pour cooking grease down your drain. It builds up in our pipes and creates expensive clogs in your personal plumbing and in your local sewer system. Clogged pipes can cause sewer overflows that introduce harmful bacteria into our waterways. And FYI, running hot water along with cooking greases doesn’t help.
The Clean Stream Champion website even has a map showing every pledge signer, and we’d love to show our elected officials signers hundreds of signers from all over the county!
Support Wetland Buffers!
Wetland buffers are vegetated spaces between marshland (wetlands) and waterways and development. In the case of wetland buffers, bigger will be better! Right now, Sussex County is considering new rules that would require more vegetated and natural space between wetlands and new construction. Currently, Sussex County only requires a 50-foot buffer on tidal wetlands and waterways. By comparison, that’s only half the distance that is required in Kent and New Castle Counties and only a sixth of what is regularly required in neighboring New Jersey.
Why are the buffers so important? Let us count the ways:
- 87% of Sussex County’s waterways are polluted. But wetlands have the ability to act like a giant water filter. They improve the quality of the rivers, streams and ponds around them. More wetlands mean improved water quality in Sussex County.
- Sussex County is especially vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise. But wetlands act as a large sponge, soaking up flood waters. The more wetlands we have, the less flooding our roads, homes and commercial development face with each and every storm.
- Sussex County is facing increasing developmental pressure with new retail centers, commercial buildings, and housing developments getting built all across the county. Increased wetland buffers not only preserve Sussex County’s rural character but improve property values through reduced flooding and improved water quality.
- Our wetlands provide more open space. More open space helps improve water quality by allowing the pollution and contaminants from rain and flood water to get absorbed across natural land before it goes into our Inland Bays and other waterways.
This is the most important piece of environmental policy to be considered by the county in years and it will need your help to pass. To show your support there are a few things you can do:
- Contact Planning and Zoning Commission members to share your values about buffers.
- Contact Sussex County Council members to share your values about buffers.
- Attend meetings of the Commission and Council to provide testimony.
- Write letters to the editor about the need for better buffers in Sussex County.
For an in-depth dive on the incredibly important environmental and economic value of wetland buffers, head over to the Delaware Center of the Inland Bays’ resource center on the issue.
Remind Our Legislators That Nature Is Not Closed!
There’s no better time than now to let legislators know just how much the environment and our outdoor spaces mean in a time of uncertainty like today. If you are spending your time walking a local trail, planting your garden in your backyard, or doing just about anything outside, snap a picture and post it on social media. Be sure to tag the legislators, county council members and local officials that represent you in your hometown. Mention that you are especially grateful for the value of the outdoors, including our waterways, in such an unprecedented time – and that you want our future generations to continue enjoy our waterways and outdoor spaces. Be sure to join us on the Clean Water Campaign and Delaware Nature SocietyFacebook pages for other advocacy opportunities and outdoor activities.
Not comfortable on social media? That’s ok! You can always email your elected officials or send the photos to us and we are happy to post them on our social media accounts!
It’s thanks to you and our fellow Water Warriors that we can continue to fight for clean water during such an unrivaled time in history. We count ourselves lucky to be working together with such an amazing community of great neighbors and global citizens and thank you for your efforts.
The Team at the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice Campaign