By Delaware Nature Society
Many of Delaware’s waterways, in both the Delaware River Watershed and Chesapeake Bay, are polluted due to failing infrastructure, population growth, and legacy contamination from chemicals, pesticides, and other harmful substances. Adding to the problem, funding for programs related to updating infrastructure, protecting lands, and cleaning up legacy pollution have stayed stagnate, dwindled, or were eliminated altogether. While the state has made great strides to address water quality impairments, there are still millions of dollars’ worth of projects and infrastructure that need to be funded. The good news is, Delawareans resoundingly believe its residents and government can work together to improve the quality of our water! According to a 2014 poll, 82% of Delawareans believe the pollution problem in Delaware’s waterways can be improved and think the State of Delaware can do more.
The Delaware Nature Society is leading efforts in the State by actively adocating, educating, and promoting conservation practices that lead to improved water quality in both the Delaware and Chesapeake watersheds. We do this on the national level by supporting clean water initiatives such as the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA), the Clean Water Act, and the Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration. On a state level we promote funding for Open Space and Clean Water.
In 2015, Delaware Nature Society along with a group of diverse stakeholders such as local businesses, trade groups, conservation organizations, and state agencies kicked off a campaign educating outdoor enthusiasts about the importance of investing in programs that will remove toxins from Delaware’s waterways, improve the water we drink, and protect parks, open spaces, farms, and wetlands. The “Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice” campaign is focused on building public support for dedicated clean water funding. This effort not only will improve Delaware’s local waterways but also the Delaware River Watershed as a whole, which supports $23 billion in ecological resources and provides $25 billion in annual economic activity to the region. A healthy Delaware River and Bay not only provides clean drinking water to Delawareans, but it also supports fish, oysters, and horseshoe crabs that yield tremendous economic value to the region.
Since its establishment, the campaign has engaged Delaware residents in the dialogue around clean water funding including two Clean Water Rallies on the steps of Delaware’s Legislative Hall. The Rallies featured educational displays from supporters and allowed participants to interact with their elected officials, sharing their “clean water story”, as well as meet with the Governor following the rally to voice their concerns. Combined, the Rallies saw over 250 people and featured speakers such as National Wildlife Federation President Collin O’Mara and prominent legislators including Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf, Senate Majority Leader David McBride, and the Chair of the Clean Water and Flood Abatement Task Force Senator Bryan Townsend.
Through the campaign’s hard work to raise awareness and support for dedicated clean water funding, a legislative resolution passed Delaware’s General Assembly creating a Clean Water and Flood Abatement Task Force – but the work isn’t over yet. After meeting 19 times over an 11 month period, the Task Force, made up of over 30 organizations, businesses, legislators, and corporations is set to release its final report in the coming weeks. Included in the report will be the Task Force's findings and recommendations, which identify over $100 million in annual needs related to water quality improvements and a potential funding mechanism for the next General Assembly to continue.
The Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign encourages you to join the effort to secure dedicated funding for clean water because it will ensure a better, stronger Delaware. To learn more about the Campaign visit www.cleanwaterdelaware.org or “Like” them on Facebook for more information on how you can show your support for clean water!
Delaware Nature Society is a member of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed’s Steering Committee and serves as state lead for our Coalition in Delaware. DNS has adopted the goal of improving water quality as a strategic focus in recognition that clean water touches every aspect of their mission to connect people to the natural world through education, conservation, and advocacy. Whether they are engaging people in the importance of sustainable agriculture on our Coverdale Farm Preserve, leading canoeing trips on the Christina, or advocating for clean water policies, DNS celebrates water as our most precious resource.