This week, I was excited to be part of Action Day for Clean Water and Rivers. There is such a great need for funding to support healthy rivers and clean water infrastructure across the county and especially in low-wealth communities, we decided to provide a platform to lift up the voices of local activists working on clean water and river conservation challenges around the country.
We teamed up with our good friends at River Network to jointly organize and host a three day virtual event during water week, where local river and clean water activists could meet up with their representatives and Congress to share with them the importance of clean water and rivers to their local communities. Over 75 activists representing 23 states participated, and attended over 50 lawmaker meetings.
Organizations spanned the country, from We the People of Detroit, in Michigan, the Connecticut River Conservancy in Massachusetts all the way to the West Coast and the Tuolumne River Trust based in California.
All the activists related their local work and clean water challenges, and highlighted the need for increased federal support. Crumbling infrastructure and the water affordability crisis were a few of the issues raised. The top-level policy requests that were offered to help address these issues included:
- $3 billion in immediate funding to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Low Income Home Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). This new program creates a direct water assistance program modeled after the existing Low Energy Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Additionally, this program should be authorized, made permanent at either Health and Human Services or the Environmental Protection Agency, and tracked to ensure it reaches those most in need.
- $60 million/year for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities Drinking Water Grant Program under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This program is designed to support drinking water projects and activities in underserved, small and disadvantaged communities that are unable to finance projects to comply with drinking water regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
- $10 Billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $10 Billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund over the next five years. Included in this ask, we requested a minimum of 20% of this funding to be distributed to disadvantaged communities via grants, rather than loans. Also we asked for an increase to the green infrastructure set-aside program, from 10% to 20%. This program incentivized Clean Water State Revolving Fund funds to be used for green infrastructure projects, like rain gardens, wetland and floodplain restoration, and green roofs. These sustainable approaches provide multiple benefits to communities and waterways.
It was an amazing event and we are looking forward to hosting an in-person version next year!