Water Hub Blog

Celebrating water progress: new Just Infrastructure campaign

Water infrastructure art: hand under flowing faucet, green streets, river restoration, urban gardening.

Growing up on the outskirts of Merced, California, I drank (sometimes brownish) water from a well, and practiced my balance beam routine on the pipe that watered the pasture where our 4H sheep fed. Occasionally, I’d join my brother in digging channels to direct the flow of irrigation, making islands for little rock cities, surrounded by water that cut ever deeper into the dirt. 

Despite all this, I never gave much thought to water infrastructure. It was just background stuff, taken for granted, like the water itself. Now, of course, I understand how precious water is in that part of the state, especially in high summer when everything would brown and crisp if not for the miracle of hoses, pipes, and pumps, and the lakes and creeks that create little oases of green.

But still, when I started thinking last year about a campaign to build awareness and appreciation for water infrastructure, I felt stuck. (If you’re ready to dive in, though, feel free to check out JustInfastructure.org!) 

A photo collage of a Nicole's brother with a sheep, both of them sitting in Yosemite, Nicole as a little girl with chicks, and a mom and baby sheep

Introducing our Just Infrastructure storytelling campaign

All over the country, brilliant people are working to build and plant water systems that support life, from bioswales along bikeways to beaver dam analogs and food forests. But the topic is so vast! As other fans of alliteration have said before me, water infrastructure extends from forests to faucets (we also like to call out “wetlands to water mains”…)

It took dozens of conversations with advocates, practitioners, and experts to help me wrap my brain around the many projects made possible by the historic water funding included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, and the work still needed to maximize their benefit and make the case for more money. Lead pipes have gotten a lot of attention–deservedly–but federal water dollars are also supporting oyster reefs, community gardens, PFAS testing and treatment, street trees, dam removal, floodplains, groundwater recharge, and so much more.

Just Infrastructure is a bit of a play on words. We wanted to center the call for justice in infrastructure spending, but also acknowledge that infrastructure is often overlooked when it’s working as intended–merely the foundation for healthy bodies and farms and fisheries and neighborhoods.

We developed and refined the Just Infrastructure concept with the help of three artists and organizers, envisioning it as a toolbox for water champions across the country to celebrate progress and push for more investment, more community engagement, and more multi-benefit solutions. We created factsheets, message guides, graphics, and social posts that can be adapted for use with residents, policymakers, utility leaders, and more.

The campaign focuses on three issues partners continually emphasized as priorities: 

And, because nature-based solutions have historically been underfunded, we spotlighted where they are taking root and how their benefits cascade.

I hope you find the Just Infrastructure resources useful, and look forward to your feedback. Feel free to drop me a line if you have ideas for future materials! 

The Water Hub