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!

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.

Matt Bailey Testfiying at Legislative Hall

A Water Warrior’s Reflection on the Clean Water Rally

It was June 5th2019.  Today was to be my first participation in a lobbying day and to say I was looking forward to it would be a giant understatement.  I would be joining the Delaware Nature Society’s (DelNature’s) advocacy staff, DelNature volunteers and an array of like-minded organizations who have banded together as the Clean Water Alliance.  Today, we Water Warriors were here to show our support for House Bill 200, which, when passed, will provide a reliable funding source for efforts to protect and restore the waters of Delaware.

Participants who registered to lobby were each given a blue t-shirt.  As we gathered on the steps of Legislative Hall in Dover, I could see a sea of blue rising.  Representing 34 other state representatives, House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst stepped to the microphone, “Clean water isn’t a privilege, it is a human right.”  I added my voice to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd.  In addition to state representatives and directors of nonprofits, Collin O’Mara, current president of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and former Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), had made time to fly back into Delaware in support of dedicated clean water funding. “I’m tired of having to deliver bottled water to Ellendale and Blades,” he said.  The lobbying contingent from southwest Sussex County shouted their agreement.  I got the feeling that some of those supporters had been needing to bathe in bottled water too long.

Now was the time for the crowd to adjourn to the legislative chambers to hear and give testimony regarding HB 200 (H2 “O” as Representative Longhurst cleverly pointed out).  Well, the time had come for me to make a decision. I held my breath and dove in, I put my name on the list of those who wanted to testify!

I went into the chamber and found one of the last seats. To my surprise, Mr. O’Mara happened to sit right down next to me.  Between his tapping on his smartphone, confirming a flight for an engagement he had in St. Louis later that day, he told me that in the current political climate, it was more important than ever for citizens to get involved in protecting the environment.  He said NWF membership has increased significantly over the past two years. Hobnobbing with the big boys, I replied, “DelNature is glad to be part of that wave, for sure.’  Mr. O’Mara answered that he was glad NWF had an affiliate like Delaware Nature Society in Delaware.

Well, my name was called and as I looked up from the podium I saw a beautiful blue sky of blue t-shirts up in the gallery.  The two minutes of testimony time that had been allotted to each speaker went by quickly, but I did finish in time, whew.

The highlight of the whole day arrived when the Chair of the Natural Resource Committee requested a show of hands on the motion to release HB 200 from Committee.  HB200 passed unanimously!   I don’t think I’ve felt a comparable rush of excitement since the Eagles won the Super Bowl!

This clean water legislation still has an upstream battle in front of it.  But our efforts today have the promise of going from a trickle in a crack in a mountain to a great lake that can ensure clean, safe water for all.

Matt Bailey, a Clean Water Campaign Water Warrior, spent 20 years as a  Wildlife Biologist working with Endangered Species.  He now is pleased to be volunteering with the Delaware Nature Society.

Clean Water Advocates in Washington DC

When Science and Personal Experience Come Together, Decision Makers Are Interested in Our Story

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” – W.H. Auden

As a graduate student studying Energy and Environmental Policy and a research assistant with the University of Delaware’s Water Resources Center, clean water is something that is extremely important to me. From discussing policies that govern our nation’s waterways to collecting water samples for various testing out in the field, I spend a significant amount of time thinking about water-related issues, and I want our local, state and federal legislators to know just how much is at stake when it comes to water quality.  

I was first introduced to environmental issues as a freshman in high school. At the time, a fossil fuel producing corporation invaded my hometown of Dallas, Pennsylvania to explore natural gas reserves. Since my mother dedicated her early adult life to working in a laboratory as a synthetic organic chemist, she was extremely familiar with the volatile organic compounds used in the fracking process. My family and I spent countless hours at townships meetings and zoning board hearings to fight against natural gas development in my small town. After months of pushback from the residents and three experimental wells failing to produce a viable amount of natural gas, the company decided to cut their losses and move onto the next town. However, with the high influx of gas coming from the north, a metering station was constructed close to my high school; and 9.5 miles of additional pipeline was laid to tie into the interstate Transco pipeline. These series of unfortunate events sparked my interest in environmental issues and put me on a future career path in environmental advocacy.

Since starting at the University of Delaware Water Resources Center in September 2018, I have worked on dozens of projects for several local organizations. In addition to completing fieldwork for the White Clay Wild & Scenic River Program, I have worked on a variety of projects for the Clean Water Alliance, Delaware Nature Society, City of Wilmington’s Green Jobs Program, and Delaware’s chapter of the American Water Resource Association (AWRA). For example, in the fall, I completed a semester-long project related to agriculture for the City of Newark’s Source Water Assessment. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, I created a map of all farms in the Newark watershed and labeled them according to crop/animal type, which will be utilized to identify sources of agricultural pollution. My work with the University of Delaware Water Resources Center has allowed me to learn more about local water issues, network with professionals in the field, and work collaboratively with peers to spread the word about the importance of clean water.  

On March 6, I attended a lobby day in Washington, D.C. organized by the Choose Clean Water Coalition. Along with representatives from the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed and from across the entire Mid-Atlantic that discussed watershed-wide issues, members of the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice Clean Water Alliance spoke specifically on the need for dedicated funding for clean water right here in Delaware. We met with staff from Senator Carper, Senator Coons, and Representative Blunt-Rochester’s offices. In addition to thanking them for their efforts in funding clean water initiatives at the federal level, we asked for an increase in funding for programs related to the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River Basin. Lobby day gave me the chance to talk about my research, meet with fellow Water Warriors, and advocate for change within Delaware’s watersheds.   

Often, those in the science field may feel uncomfortable with advocating for things like improved water quality and conservation in general. But, having done it locally in my hometown and now nationally with Delaware’s Congressional delegation, I can say from experience that decision makers and regulators at every level want to hear our story. From the personal reason we joined our field to the fact-based evidence and science we have to back up our requests, every decisionmaker I met with took the time to truly understand why I cared about the issue. I encourage you to consider advocating for dedicated clean water funding in front of our decision makers. If you are unsure on where to start, the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign has a number of resources available and are always willing to talk to meet to discuss why citizen advocacy is so important and how you can make your voice heard in front of those that make the important decisions that affect everything from the water we drink to the ecosystem around us.

Interested in learning more about how to become a Water Warrior and advocate for dedicated clean water funding in Delaware? Contact our outreach coordinators, Laura Miller and Ellie Ezekiel at 302-239-2334 or laura@delnature.org and ellie@delnature.org.

Kelly Jacobs is a first-year master’s student at the University of Delaware and works for the university’s Water Resources Center. She graduated from Lebanon Valley College in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Economics where she started her own Environmental Club and served on the Sustainability Advisory Committee. Her research interests include the relationship between the extractive industry and the environment, water quality, and issues related to environmental justice.