In my 10+ years of work on water, I’ve seen a steady increase in the amount of attention this vital resource receives in the press and in politics. This is partly driven by crises like Flint and Winter Storm Uri, but we wouldn’t see the current level of awareness without organizing from every corner of the country.
Advocates have been pushing relentlessly for our leaders to recognize the human right to water, and the rights of nature.
At last, elected officials are heeding that call. From VP Harris to Speaker Pelosi and EPA Secretary Regan, national leaders have centered water in their infrastructure push, proposing billions for lead pipe removal, PFAS clean-up, drought-preparedness, and land and water protection.
This can’t come soon enough for communities that have lived for years with the consequences of federal disinvestment, including rising water rates and failing infrastructure.
While historically siloed as an environmental issue, it’s impossible now to deny that water is key to public health and safety, as well as the fight for racial justice.
Water touches all our lives, every day, and the polling reflects this. Voters from all walks of life worry about water pollution and supply, and support solutions.
In a time of partisan gridlock, water has the potential to unite people across state and party lines, and deliver meaningful benefits to communities reeling from the pandemic and climate-driven disasters like fires and floods.
In a new report, The Opportunity on Water, we synthesize public opinion research on water, and offer a series of recommendations for tapping into shared concerns to drive meaningful progress. We have a separate version for policymakers that includes a high level summary of water challenges.
Here’s a snapshot of recommendations from the report:
- Resource frontline groups that are addressing urgent community needs while organizing for long-term change.
- Build power by investing in movement infrastructure.
- Address both the human and environmental stakes of water issues.
- Tap into the emotion around water by using language and imagery that locates it in our lives.
- Think beyond factsheets and op-eds: explore arts and cultural strategies to reach and move people.
- Speak to universal values like health, safety, family and financial security.
- Ensure campaign materials focus on the why rather than the how (purpose and payoff, not process!)
- Dig in: achieving our goals will require systems and culture change as well as policy wins.
We hope this report will be useful for your work, and welcome your feedback. Please feel free to drop me a line at nlampe [at] climatenexus.org.
Full report: Download
Policymaker version: Download
Photo: Water protectors at an Inauguration Day demonstration by Mobilus in Mobili, via Flickr Creative Commons