Water Hub Blog

Communicating at the water-climate nexus

Rocky beach with a message in a bottle

Recently, our friends at the Choose Clean Water Coalition invited us to their “Resilient Waters: Making the Clean Water-Climate Change Connection” training. The goal of this training was to discuss effective strategies for communicating about climate change as clean water advocates. 

Public opinion on climate change can be polarized. However, concern for healthy rivers, safe drinking water, and support for regulating water pollution remains popular.  The way people experience climate change is through weather and water — that’s why water groups are important climate communicators.

Our workshop, “Communicating at the Water-Climate Nexus,” laid out the latest public opinion research and best practices to help water leaders feel confident communicating at the intersection of water, climate, and justice! 

Climate change is water change. 

To start the workshop, we asked the group to name what they think of when they think about climate change. Every group’s answers will look different, but it’s not surprising that the impacts of climate change jump out of the word cloud.

Where’s the public on climate change?   

Even with the gloomy feelings residing in how many of us process climate change, the good news is that most Americans believe climate change is a problem and support action to address it. 

And on water? Voters want the U.S. to invest in water. People care about their drinking water and protecting rivers, lakes, and streams. When asked about what priorities should be in Biden’s economic stimulus plan, most people said multi benefit solutions like building resilient infrastructure, investing in green space, and future proofing communities from climate impacts were important.

This brings us to a core principle of communications: knowing your audience.

What your audience already knows and believes should impact how you’re communicating with them and who is communicating with them. 

With that said, we believe it’s so important to start with values. Is it family, economic security, or health and safety? Leading with our values helps us connect on an emotional level. That’s why we love The Opportunity Agenda framework: VPSA. Value, Problem, Solution, Action.

“Unsurprisingly, since their communities bear the brunt of water problems, voters of color indicate the strongest support for water solutions. More than 90% of Latinos believe it’s important for the President and Congress to protect drinking water from contamination. Black voters are most likely to support a review of Trump policies that harmed the environment.”

From the Opportunity on Water report

Check out 4 best practices from our recent report, The Opportunity on Water:

  1. Speak in universal values like health, safety, families, and financial security.
  2. Ensure campaigns focus on why. Our Water at Work digital campaign shows how investing in water infrastructure will build resilient communities and create family-wage jobs.
  3. Tap into the emotion around water through imagery. Climate Stripes is a great example of how graphics can effectively tell a story without words. 
  4. Think beyond factsheets and op-eds! Explore arts and cultural strategies to reach people. Azul brings Latinxs perspectives and participation to ocean conservation and recently released a full-length album, En El Mar, to celebrate community and build support for 30X30

These recommendations are ways for you to implement messaging and emphasize the climate benefits of water solutions. If you get stuck, start by asking yourself, “How would I describe the world I want to live in?” What are some values that guide your work? To learn more about how your org can strategically communicate at the climate + water nexus, check out our resource guide

You can also watch the presentation:

Also, to stay in the loop for Water Hub resources and upcoming trainings, join our newsletter or drop us a line at [email protected] if you’ve got a project or campaign and want an extra set of hands! 

The Water Hub