Clean Water Maps for Delaware Legislative Districts

Over the past few months we have been working on developing a series of maps which illustrate Delawareans’ unique relationship to clean water and clean water infrastructure.

We created these maps in conjunction with Bright Fields Inc. as well as the University of Delaware’s Water Resource Center. The poverty concentrations are based on federal census data. Water and sewer data are from state and county databases. These maps are organized by legislative district, and tell a story about how areas served by sewers and public water systems intersect with poverty concentrations. These maps show that the lack of access to sewer and public water is often correlated to areas with high poverty concentrations in our state.

Descriptions and links to the maps are included below. 

Delaware Legislative Districts Showing Public Sewer Service Areas and Poverty Rates

House Version | Senate Version

The black, forward-slashing on this map shows Sewer Service Areas. Residents of these areas are served by sewage treatment plants. Residents outside of these areas flush their wastes into septic tanks and drain fields that, in Delaware’s sandy soils, can be a major source of groundwater contamination.

Delaware Legislative Districts Showing Public Water Service Areas and Poverty Rates

House Version | Senate Version

The black, backslashing on this map shows the extent of Water Service Areas. Residents inside these areas receive their drinking water from regulated wells or surface water systems that are tested routinely and treated to remove EPA-regulated contaminants. Residents outside of these areas receive their drinking water from a single or community wells, many of which may or may not be tested or treated for contaminants.

Delaware Legislative Districts Showing Impaired Surface Waters and Poverty Rates

House Version | Senate Version

The red segments on this map show dreams that have poor water quality. Delaware’s list of impaired waters includes 377 bodies of water that suffer from excess nutrients, low-dissolved oxygen, toxins, and/or bacteria that negatively impact human and aquatic life. Approximately 90% of Delaware’s waterways are considered impaired. [It is important to note that many Delaware streams have not yet been tested.]

We are happy to answer questions and further discuss the thought process behind these visuals at any time at Emily.Knearl@DelNature.org.

Reflecting on Climate Justice, COVID-19, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As we celebrate their contributions to this country and continue vital conversations about how to address climate change, we must first come to terms with the complex history of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) people here in the United States. We are currently experiencing a devastating increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans that have, in part, been fueled by racist rhetoric around the COVID-19 pandemic. This violence is not new and is also an extension of the mistreatment and discrimination that AAPI have suffered since immigrating to America; as well as the racist rhetoric used to blame Asian and Southeast Asian countries for climate change. The only way we will achieve true climate justice is by acknowledging and working through this ugly part of our history.

Climate justice frames climate change not only as an environmental issue but also as a political and ethical one. Political and ethical climate justice conversations must include countries throughout the world and include environmental justice considerations. For this to happen, we must become more comfortable taking responsibility for our environmental shortcomings without immediately focusing on what other countries can do better instead. For example, conversations about waste management systems around the globe often focus on the challenges that Asian and Southeast Asian countries like India and Indonesia face and how they can do better. These conversations fail to mention those same waste management struggles happening here in the United States This is not to say that we should never critique other countries when it comes to environmental issues with global impacts, but too often the blame is placed on Asian countries while the American responsibility is rarely fully addressed.

What are the chances that violence against AAPI and the blame for climate change is related? We certainly know that the sharp increase in violence against the AAPI community is related to COVID but placing unfair blame on non-white communities is not new. There are years of painful history between the United States and Asian and Pacific Island countries that have translated into the feeling that AAPI are a threat to our way of life here in the United States. The term “Yellow Peril” has been around since the 19th century and represents how these feelings have manifested in American culture. Yellow Peril is the fear that Asian people are going to invade the country, take jobs, and threaten our safety and way of life. While the term “Yellow Peril” has not been used in years, the ideas behind it have been used to push anti-Asian rhetoric and to justify, discrimination, imprisonment of entire families during World War II, and the most recent spate of violence. This continues to result in many people holding implicit biases against Asian American and Pacific Islanders that make it easier to blame them for many issues in the world. It has also helped lead to a paralysis in dealing more aggressively with climate change and feeds misinformation campaigns about the pandemic, threatening the very lives of AAPI friends and families in this country.

We need to do better. Large scale problems like climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be solved if countries place blame instead of collaborating on a solution. There is room for the nuances of responsibility for climate change, but not if the United States refuses to own our part that we have played in the past and present. True climate and environmental justice addresses the full, not sanitized, histories of countries around the globe, including the United States. It also means that we have a responsibility to address our country’s role in damaging the environment and the structural racism that means communities of color are much more likely to live near heavy pollution. No longer can we play the blame game with our sister countries when there are people and our planet at risk if we want to build a more just and sustainable future. Nor should we let racism go unchallenged among ourserlves, the world, and our fellow Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

For more information about the Stop AAPI hate movement click here.

Marissa McClenton is the author of this blog and a student at University of Delaware as well as the Clean Water Team’s Grassroots Organizer. Stay tuned for more insights and resources from the DEIJ Corner and Marissa in the future!

Meaningful Involvement

Marissa McClenton is the author of this blog and a student at University of Delaware as well as the Clean Water Team’s Grassroots Organizer. Stay tuned for more insights and resources from the DEIJ Corner and Marissa in the future!

If I had to pick out one part of environmental justice and other DEIJ issues, it would be the concept of meaningful involvement. Diversity and representation are assets that add value and legitimacy to the ideas and initiatives that they create. The search for meaningful involvement is hard, though, and for good reason. For us to have meaningful involvement and to reach the people who have historically been overlooked, we need to create an environment that is safe for them and an environment where they can bring their authentic and whole selves without fear of rejection.

I stumbled across this concept on either Twitter or Instagram and it pains me that I didn’t catch the source but as I frantically researched keywords with the hopes of running into the original concept I found a quote by Vernā Myers. She said that “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance,” and the fireworks went off inside my brain because YES! The distinction between diversity and inclusion is important and sort of fuzzy because they are so often grouped together. In order to have meaningful involvement you need diversity, but not as a foundation. First, you need an inclusive environment so that, when you add diversity, you’re not forcing people to enter hostile spaces where they can’t dance their way and comfortably ask dance partners for what they need.

This is an empathetic guide because I think many people ask themselves what they can personally do to create an inclusive environment and I think it’s time we talk about it. It is also called an empathetic guide because, while I am not a DEIJ expert, I have learned how to make people feel involved as a result of being born with what I see as two steps down from the hyperempathy that Lauren Olamina has in Parable of the Sower. I believe that empathy should be the first step we take when engaging with people, especially when we are asking for their help and intellectual labor.

The first step in my Empathetic Guide to Meaningful Involvement is to look outside of yourself and see how others experience the world. Read books from authors who live completely different lives from you. Engage with art from people who create things that challenge your ideas of what art is. Watch movies in different languages than the ones that you speak. Familiarize yourself with how other people interpret their world so that when the time comes, they don’t have to explain every single cultural difference when they enter a space with others. I’m in no way equating research to lived experience but Black girls in college shouldn’t have to explain why we wear bonnets.

The next thing to do is audit your space. Look at both your physical and virtual spaces, would somebody needing accommodations have to ask for them and do the work to create them? If you see this, start working to fix it. Start thinking about your unspoken rules and think about why you didn’t need them spelled out to you. These can be huge barriers to involvement because time spent participating can sometimes be spent trying to find where you fit in the current dynamic when the dynamic should be fluid enough to account for what people need. Audit your space, but more importantly, be willing to change your space to make it more inclusive even if it meets the needs of those currently there, because more will always come.

The last part of this guide is to be patient and compassionate in the moments that make you want to give up and do it yourself. Everybody starts from a different spot and took a different path to get where they are today. Consider that your impatience might be you expecting a system or structure that worked for you, to work for somebody who has different needs from your own. These are the moments when we need compassion and empathy the most. When you see someone struggling, ask how you can help them and truly listen when they tell you. You don’t have to be perfect, but empathy is the first step in bridging the gap between honest imperfection and the growing pains you feel in the beginning of any meaningful journey.

Reflecting On Women Environmentalists

For too long, women were seen as helpless people who always needed a protector. They were seen as fragile and were framed as too emotional or too simple to hold powerful jobs in society. Throughout history, countless women have shown the world how capable and innovative they can be. These women had to fight not only sexism, but also the other intersections of their identities like race, class, and sexuality, just to be awarded the same opportunities that were awarded to men by default. There are countless women who have paved the way for a more equitable society and workplace, and today we are going to highlight the women who have paved the way in the environmental field.

Mollie Beattie

In 1993, Mollie Beattie was appointed Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She was the first woman to be appointed to the position and made a tremendous impact despite succumbing to her fight with brain cancer after only 3 years at the job. She is remembered for her integral part in the protection of both the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. Under her leadership, 15 national wildlife refuges were added, more than 100 habitat conservation plans were signed with private landowners, and the gray wolf was reintroduced into the northern Rocky Mountains. Beattie made a huge impact on the environment in her time as director and her love for the earth has lived on in those who follow after her.

Mari Copeny

Also known as “Little Miss Flint”, Mari Copeny is known for her a letter she wrote when she was 10 years old that asked President Obama to meet and discuss the Flint water crisis. This meeting resulted in him signing off on $100 million dollars in relief for Flint, Michigan and helped start a nationwide conversation about the importance of youth advocacy and the right to clean water. Now 13 years old, she continues to fight for the right to clean water for Flint and other environmental justice communities. She became a national youth ambassador to the Washington DC Women’s March in 2017 and worked to provide the children and families of Flint with water bottles, holiday presents, school supplies and so much more. She is proof that passion and drive has no age, and that the voices of the younger generation deserve to be hard and taken seriously.

Aurora Castillo

A fourth generation Mexican-American living in East Los Angeles, Aurora Castillo is known as being one of the driving forces behind the creation of The Mothers of East Lo Angeles (MELA). At 70 years old, she advocated against the construction of a new prison in her community that already housed seven at the time. In addition to the successful fight against the proposed prison, MELA advocated for public meetings being held in Spanish to encourage involvement for more community members, fought against a planned toxic waste incinerator, led the fight against plans of a hazardous waste treatment plant to be built near a high school, and advocated for more community in involvement and company accountability in the area. Castillo received the 1995 North American Goldman Environmental Prize and is remembered for being a powerful and impactful environmental justice advocate and leader.

Marissa McClenton is the author of this blog and a student at University of Delaware as well as the Clean Water Team’s Grassroots Organizer. Stay tuned for more insights and resources from the DEIJ Corner and Marissa in the future!

Help Pass House Bill 200 Today!

Breaking news, Water Warriors! The Clean Water for Delaware Act, known as HB200, is going to be up for vote on the House floor this Thursday, April 1, 2021!

HB 200 will establish a Clean Water Trust Fund, provide financial resources to improve Delaware’s water quality and flood control, and prioritize investments in low-income and underserved communities. With 90% of Delaware’s waterways considered impaired or polluted, over 100 miles of fish consumption advisories, and consistent flooding statewide, there is no better time to act than the present.

In order for HB200 to pass, House legislators need to hear from you, their constituents! Will you help us ask the House to pass the Clean Water for Delaware Act (HB200)?

Below we’ve included the target legislators for you to contact as well as an email template for reaching out. If you’d like to like reach out to your specific House legislator and they aren’t one of our targets, we’ve provided resources for that as well.

Target House Legislators – To send an email directly, simply click on the link associated with each Representative on the right hand side.

Rep. Stephanie Bolden, StephanieT.Bolden@delaware.gov
Rep. Sherry Dorsey-Walker, Sherry.DorseyWalker@delaware.gov
Rep. Kevin Hensley, Kevin.Hensley@delaware.gov
Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, Jeff.Spiegelman@delaware.gov
Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf, Peter.Schwartzkopf@delaware.gov
Rep. Franklin Cooke, FranklinD.Cooke@delaware.gov
Rep. Kim Williams, Kimberly.Williams@delaware.gov
Rep. Steven Smyk, Steve.Smyk@delaware.gov
Rep. Mike Ramone, Michael.Ramone@delaware.gov
Rep. Mike Smith, Michael.F.Smith@delaware.gov
Rep. Tim Dukes, Timothy.Dukes@delaware.gov
Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, Madinah.Wilson-Anton@delaware.gov
Rep. Eric Morrison, Eric.Morrison@delaware.gov
Rep. William Bush, William.Bush@delaware.gov
Rep. Shannon Morris, Shannon.Morris@delaware.gov
Rep. Sean Lynn, Sean.Lynn@delaware.gov
Rep. Andria Bennett, Andria.Bennett@delaware.gov
Rep. Charles Postles, Charles.Postles@delaware.gov
Rep. Lyndon Yearick, Lyndon.Yearick@delaware.gov
Rep. Jess Vanderwende, Jesse.Vanderwende@delaware.gov
Rep. Ruth Briggs-King, Ruth.BriggsKing@delaware.gov
Rep. Rich Collins, Rich.Collins@delaware.gov

Sample Email for House Representative 

Dear [Representative their last name],
I am writing to ask that you support the Clean Water for Delaware Act, HB200, to establish a Clean Water Trust Fund, provide financial resources to improve Delaware’s water quality and flood control, and prioritize investments in low-income and underserved communities. With 90% of Delaware’s waterways considered impaired, over 100 miles of fish consumption advisories, and consistent flooding statewide, there is no better time to act than the present.
Earlier this year, Governor Carney and legislative leaders proposed a $50 million investment in clean water. HB200 will support this investment by creating a Clean Water Trust Fund, a cabinet-level committee to oversee the Trust, and guidelines to developing an Annual Report and Strategic Plan for Clean Water.
Funds from the Trust will go towards numerous priorities, including but not limited to:
  • Municipal wastewater treatment projects
  • Watershed restoration projects, including natural solutions
  • Flood reduction
  • Public sewer and septic upgrades
Clean water is especially important to me because [insert why you care about clean water here. Adding your personal experiences will make your email to your Representative stand out and have a greater impact!]
We need clean water to protect our health, economy, and environment while improving water quality and reducing flooding.
Thank you.
Sincerely,
[Insert your name here]

Take Action on PFAS in Delaware: House Bill 8, The Drinking Water Protection Act


In early February of 2018, Delaware officials announced Blades residents should avoid drinking their water to allow the town time to install a carbon filtration system. The warning was due to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) detected at levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Blades, which sits near the headwaters of the Nanticoke River, is one of 18 sites in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed where PFAS were discovered at levels of concern. The news of their PFAS contamination in 2018 shocked and inspired people statewide to advocate for the improvement and for new protections of Delaware’s water resources.

Now, it’s time to take action by supporting House Bill 8, The Drinking Water Protection Act. HB 8 is sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan and Sen. Dave Sokola and has drawn bipartisan support. It will be heard on the House floor for a vote on Thursday, April 29, at 2:00pm. Make your voice heard by contacting your House legislators today. For contact information and suggested talking points, check out our latest Action Alert newsletter. 

The legislation in its current form would direct the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Division of Public Health (DPH) to set Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) on PFAS, specifically PFOS and PFOA, found in drinking water. By establishing enforceable MCLs, Delaware will be going above and beyond the EPA’s non-enforceable healthy advisory limits and will reinforce that water providers must fix problematic PFAS levels.

Background on PFAS

There are thousands of types of Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS); two of the most studied are referred to as PFOA and PFOS. The EPA has issued health advisories based on the best available peer-reviewed studies of the effects of PFOA and PFOS on laboratory animals (rats and mice) and were also informed by epidemiological studies of human populations that have been exposed to PFASs. These studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects to fetuses during pregnancy or to breastfed infants (e.g., low birth weight, accelerated puberty, skeletal variations), cancer (e.g., testicular, kidney), liver effects (e.g., tissue damage), immune effects (e.g., antibody production and immunity), thyroid effects and other effects (e.g., cholesterol change).

PFAS come from a wide variety of sources, and are often associated with manufacturing. In Blades, the source is believed to be from electroplating operations based on other metals that were found in high concentrations in groundwater with the PFAS. EPA Region 3 Site Assessment Manager, Connor O’Loughlin, noted that the EPA has been looking into two electroplating facilities in the area since the mid-1990s, Peninsula Plating and Procino Plating, though the Agency would look at additional sites in their investigation into the contamination.

This is a critical issue facing Delawareans today, and we urge you to contact your state representative to ask that they support passage of HB 8. Make your voice heard and help protect Delaware’s drinking water today.

A Conversation on Clean Water Legislation with House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst

In 2019 and 2020 House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst led the charge to secure clean water funding as the prime sponsor of the Clean Water for Delaware Act (House Bill 200, or HB200). We’re honored to have her support once again as our Clean Water Warriors begin organizing to fight for clean water in the upcoming General Assembly. The Clean Water Campaign recently had a chance to connect with Representative Longhurst to hear her thoughts about clean water – and what we can expect in the coming legislative session.

What inspired you to become a champion on clean water issues?

I’ve always had an interest in the environment and protecting our natural resources, but I really became involved in the clean water effort once it clicked for me just how connected the issue of clean water is to so many other issues across the state.

Whether it’s water and wastewater infrastructure to support smart development in New Castle County, the needs of our agricultural industry downstate, the challenges our coastal communities face with flooding and sea level rise, or the inequities in our underserved communities statewide, so much falls under the banner of clean water in Delaware.

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst speaking to Water Warriors at 2019 Clean Water Rally. Photo by Christi Leeson.

When will the Clean Water Legislation (successor to HB200) be introduced?

We’re planning to file the latest version of our legislation this spring.

What do you see as the biggest roadblocks to success?

The biggest challenge is and always has been funding. We need a meaningful sum to jumpstart the plan and a sustainable source of funding for the future.

We also know there are other interest groups out there who don’t necessarily share our vision for clean water in Delaware, and we’re going to keep confronting them on this issue, having those discussions and educating them.

How has the pandemic affected access to clean water/funding opportunities for clean water?

We don’t yet know how great a toll the pandemic has taken on state and local revenues, but that is certainly a big concern. With so many people working from home, I think there’s also an impact on residential water and wastewater infrastructure that we don’t know the full scope of yet.

On the other hand, I think outdoor recreation has become a bigger part of many Delawareans’ lives during the pandemic, and hopefully that has led to a greater awareness and appreciation of our natural landscapes and the need to safeguard them.

What can the Water Warriors do to support the new legislation and funding proposal?

Keep in contact with legislators from both sides of the aisle and make sure they hear you, especially the ones who represent you and your community. Share your personal stories about how water quality impacts your family. Stay engaged, spread the message to as many of your friends and neighbors as you can. You’ve made great strides in bringing the issue of clean water to the forefront — keep up the good work!

Are you ready to join House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, the Clean Water Campaign, and our coalition partners? Take action today by clicking here!

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst’s Legislative Service

Valerie J. Longhurst was first elected to the Delaware House of Representatives in November 2004 to represent the 15th District. The district consists of 20,000 people living in Bear, Delaware City and St. Georges. In 2008, she was elected as the House Majority Whip and served for four years. After the 2012 election, her caucus elected her House Majority Leader. Representative Longhurst is currently chair of the House Administration, Ethics and Rules committees. She also serves on the Telecommunications Internet and Technology committee and is the former chair of the Manufactured Housing Committee.

 

Woman Gardening

When the World is Disrupted, Advocacy for Clean Water Doesn’t Have to Be

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! 

    1. Scoop Your Pet Poop – Don’t leave it in your yard or on the sidewalk; it washes into our rivers and streams!
    2. 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!
    3. 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!
    4. 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.
    5. 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!

Sign the pledge today!

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:

        1. Contact Planning and Zoning Commission members to share your values about buffers.
        2. Contact Sussex County Council members to share your values about buffers.
        3. Attend meetings of the Commission and Council to provide testimony.
        4. 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.

Stay healthy!

The Team at the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice Campaign

Governor at podium during press conference

The Clean Water for Delaware Act is Here and We Can Make it Law!

Have you heard the news?  House Substitute 1 for House Bill 200 (HS1 for HB200) was unveiled by Governor John Carney, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride in late January. Yep, that’s a mouthful, but the bottom line is this:  

HS1 for HB200 is the Clean Water for Delaware Act. It will create a Clean Water Trust Fund to address Delaware’s most pressing clean water and waterway projects.

So, where does the dedicated funding in the Trust account come from? Great question, since HS1 for HB200 doesn’t actually provide any funding.

Governor Carney proposed an initial investment of $50 million in a Clean Water Trust Fund in his Fiscal Year 2021 (FY2021) Bond Bill. The initial funding could leverage millions more in federal funding.

What can be funded by the Clean Water Trust? Funding will go towards:

  • Improving flood resiliency and drainage in our most flood-prone communities
  • Repairing failing sewer pipes and septic systems
  • Improving drinking water quality & expanding access to safe drinking water
  • Removing decades-old pollution from our waterways
  • Conservation funding for Delaware’s agriculture community
  • Low-interest loans and grants for low-income and underserved communities

How will projects be chosen? Do we all get money whenever we want it? The bill will create a seven-member cabinet-level and state legislator committee composed of the secretaries of the Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; Health and Social Services; Finance; Agriculture and Transportation; as well as the two co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Capital Improvement (also called the Bond Bill Committee). The Clean Water Trust Oversight Committee will be required to submit an annual report on the Clean Water Trust funding. They will create a strategic plan containing:

  • A list of goals for the Trust
  • Projects ranked in terms of importance
  • Recommendations on how to help low-income and underserved communities
  • Challenges facing water quality
  • Drinking water priorities
  • A global strategy for clean water including water infrastructure investments beyond what is funded by the Trust account (such as beach replenishment)

Wait, but then what happens to the Water Infrastructure Advisory Council (WIAC)? You really do know your water! Currently, WIAC (pronounced “wee-ack”) provides guidance to leaders throughout the state on project proposals for drinking water and wastewater facilities, funding programs related to drainage, stormwater management and flood control, and watershed-based plans for surface water management. WIAC is not going anywhere.  If HS1 to HB200 passes, they would provide such guidance to the Clean Water Trust Oversight Committee.

But what happens when that money runs out? Exciting news, clean water fans! It technically shouldn’t run out. The money in the Clean Water Trust account will be going into state revolving Funds, which are replenished year after year by interest from project loans.

This all seems great, right? Are you wondering how to make this a reality? There are two big steps to ensuring this becomes reality:

  1. The Clean Water for Delaware Act (HS1 for HB200) needs to become law. First, the bill must pass the House, then the Senate, then head to the Governor’s desk for signature. Follow our social media and sign up for our newsletter to learn as we pass each milestone.
  2. The Governor’s recommended Bond Bill is just that: a recommendation! The initial investment of $50 million for clean water must be approved by the Bond Bill Committee and passed by the General Assembly. It must be debated and signed like any other piece of legislation.

Great news Water Warriors! You can advocate for this innovative plan for clean water funding! There are three things you can do to help ensure the Clean Water Trust becomes a reality this year, and for years to come.

  1. Contact your legislators and let them know you support HS1 for HB200. If you don’t know your legislators, visit the DE Department of Elections website , enter your name and birthday for your voter registration information.  Click on “Districts” and you will see who represents you in the State House and Senate.
  2. Reach out to Delaware’s Bond Bill Committee and tell each member that you want to see the full $50 million earmarked for the Clean Water Trust to be included in the final budget proposal.
  3. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for our newsletter to get up-to-date information and action alerts to learn more about how you can advocate for clean water funding!

Questions about this? Reach a member of our Clean Water Campaign team at any time using our “Contact Us” page!

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 https://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.