Advocating for Clean Water: It Takes Teamwork!

A reflection of our most recent Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.

In early April, a number of our Clean Water Alliance Members had the opportunity to participate in a “Clean Water Advocacy Day” in Washington D.C.  The day, held in conjunction with the Choose Clean Water Coalition and the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed’s Advocacy Day, was focused on urging our Congressional Delegation to fight for the much-needed federal programs that help improve Delaware’s water quality and lessen the impact of flooding.

Attendees included representatives from Delaware Nature Society, the Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers Association, Christina Navy, Brandywine Red Clay Alliance and the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays.

Attendees met with Senator Tom Carper and his staff as well as staff from Senator Chris Coons’ and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester’s offices. Some of our attendees have been to meeting on The Hill before, while this was a new experience for others.

As we headed home, we had a chance to reflect on the experience with some of our attendees, including:

Chris Bason, Executive Director, Delaware Center for the Inland Bays (CB)
John Williams, Founder, Christina Navy (JW)
Todd Pride, Lead Coach, Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers and Outdoors Program (TP)

 

Q: Why did you attend Advocacy Day?

 TP: Clean and healthy water is essential to the success of hunting and fishing activities. Delaware is at the “apex” of the Mid-Atlantic region’s Delaware River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds, which is critical to the health and economic vitality of the region.  It was important to me that our elected officials see the passion and experiences the fishing and hunting communities have for clean water.

JW: Rowing on dirty water in Wilmington for 27 years, I like the idea that green infrastructure projects can improve Wilmington and turn it into a “green” place where people want to work and live — an Emerald City! I think it’s important our officials make this connection.

CB: Ultimately, I’ve dedicated my career to protecting the water and natural lands in Delaware. When I heard about this opportunity from Delaware Nature Society, I couldn’t turn it down!

Q: After the day wrapped up, what were your thoughts on the experience?

 CB: I was impressed by the enthusiasm demonstrated by the advocates and Congressional Offices, particularly that of Senator Carper.  In the face of adversity, a variety of people that have a deep connection and interest in clean water spoke in a very positive way about why continued progress on clean water will happen.

JW: It was great to have so many different perspectives on clean water speaking with our congressional team. We all need water to live and we all will benefit from clean water. The message really “sunk in.”

TP: What was most impressive to me was the broad level of support for our region’s (and country’s) clean water programs. I was also impressed by support from and for our area’s agriculture industry.

Q: Did you feel the folks we met with were approachable and willing to tackle the issue? Would you recommend other Delawareans meet with their elected officials?

CB: The staff is always approachable and they listen.  That is their job, but I feel like many people don’t realize that or they have a hard time trusting that.  The staff have to ensure that everyone who wants to be heard is, so meetings or phone calls are often quick.  But I always encourage people that any opinion or information they have matters a great deal and the Congressional Offices have a strong interest in hearing it.

JW: Everyone was very pleasant and receptive. I could feel their genuine shared concern for our cause. They also had suggestions for how to approach others with differing opinions to help pass needed clean water legislation. 

Q: What was the top thing you walked away with from the day?

JW: I really enjoyed meeting the members of the “clean water team” from Delaware. We are not only advocating for our organizations, but also making cross-connections to stand united with a strong message.

TP: My biggest takeaway was the incredible teamwork and leadership displayed by so many interests. We came out of this day with some new relationships and have already started working with some of the participants we met to further mobilize the support from the hunting and fishing communities.

Delaware Master Gardeners take part in Water Warrior workshop

Water Warrior Attendee Group ShotThe following is part of our “Member Spotlight” series. The Clean Water Campaign periodically highlights the work our Clean Water Alliance Members do to support our mission of securing additional funding for clean water initiatives. 

Delaware Master Gardeners take part in Water Warrior workshop

 

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardeners spent two days in February learning about the importance of clean water to the state’s environment and economy.

Participants explored simple, low-cost tips for protecting and improving local water quality in their backyards and community and engaging on topics such as green infrastructure as part of a Water Warrior citizen advocacy workshop.

The workshop featured presenters from UD, the Delaware Nature Society (DNS), the Delaware Water Resources Center (DWRC) and the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, and was affiliated with the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign, a statewide education and outreach effort led by DNS and focused on clean water.

Many of the presenters were also part of the Clean Water Alliance, a group of diverse stakeholders that supports the Clean Water Campaign and the Water Warrior workshops.

Carrie Murphy, extension agent and the lawn and garden program leader, said that a representative from DNS approached her about holding the training for Master Gardeners, saying it was a natural fit as the gardeners already get a baseline of training on how to help homeowners with water problems.

“There are bigger efforts in neighborhoods to manage the water but then on your own property, and in your landscape, there are slight modifications you can make, for example reducing lawn, planting more native plants, considering a rain garden if appropriate, to more effectively manage water. This has been our focus but we’ve never had extensive training to connect these suggestions to the bigger picture, so this was a great opportunity to do this,” said Murphy.

The first day of the workshop focused on sustainable landscaping, specifically how gardens relate to water management, and highlighted some of the challenges in New Castle County with regard to water management and how Master Gardeners can help people troubleshoot those issues.

Sue Barton, associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, presented on sustainable landscaping practices, such as bioswales, a landscaping element designed to concentrate or remove pollution from surface water runoff, and native plants that are appropriate for rain gardens.

A DNS representative gave an overview of the Clean Water Alliance and a presentation on “Water Warrior 101: Citizen’s Guide to Clean Water.”

Individual contributions to clean water

There are a number of ways that individuals can help contribute to clean water through individual practices, which is the focus of Water Warrior training. Gardeners, in particular, have a unique relationship with water and can have an immediate impact based on the individual practices that they utilize.

The second day included presentations on the value of watersheds and water in Delaware from Martha Narvaez, a policy scientist at the DWRC, located in UD’s Institute for Public Administration, and an overview of water restoration in the Brandywine-Red Clay Valley from Ellen Kohler of the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance.

The DWRC is on the Clean Water Alliance steering committee and Narvaez said they have been working with DNS on their campaign, trying to attract new alliance members and sharing information about the importance of clean water.

They have also been educating the public on their role in water quality, their impacts on water and the need for clean water.

“We conducted an economic analysis on Delaware’s watersheds in 2012 and, using three different methods, we found watersheds contribute anywhere from $2-6.7 billion annually to the state’s economy. We felt that quantifying [this number] was important so that we could give people a better understanding of why protecting water is important,” said Narvaez.

One of the biggest challenges in protecting water in Delaware and throughout the country is that water crosses state lines, so while Delawareans can address the pollution once it reaches the state, it is increasingly difficult to address the pollution at out-of-state sources.

“How do you address pollution in other states when you really have no regulatory authority to do that? That’s one of the challenges with water. People have different uses downstream and you may not have control of the sources upstream so you need to work to have innovative ways to incentivize people upstream to clean up the water so the people downstream are getting clean water,” said Narvaez.

As far as working with the Master Gardeners, Narvaez said she was happy to participate in the event and share the research DWRC has conducted on the importance of water resources.

“I think the Master Gardeners are a perfect group to carry that through because they are the people on the ground talking to home owners and really connecting with the public and I think they can connect in a way that a lot of us can’t and so I was really happy to be able to participate,” said Narvaez.

Those interested in becoming Master Gardeners or learning about Master Gardener services can call 302-831-COOP or visit the Cooperative Extension website.

Those interested in learning more about the Clean Water Alliance or hosting a Water Warrior training, can contact Brenna Goggin, director of advocacy at DNS, at 302-239-2334 ext. 132 or e-mail brenna@delawarenaturesociety.org.

This blog post is a reprint of an article published in UDaily on 3/13/17