What happens when something as essential as clean water gets taken for granted in the U.S.? Laws passed in the early 1970s to clean up and protect our water have delivered perhaps some of our greatest environmental successes. Yet today, progress has faltered, and water quality has begun to decline. Without a significant change of direction, our clean water may once again be in peril.
What’s going on with our water? Do people care? What can be done to start turning things around? Clean Water Fund (a SurveyMonkey Contribute partner) and Clean Water Action share their take on these questions – and how a recently-completed survey using SurveyMonkey Audience offers new insights and opportunities for their strategy to advance positive solutions for our water.
Once Upon a Time: When Rivers Caught Fire
Not too long ago, things were pretty bad for our water. Unchecked industrial discharges and poorly-treated sewage in our water meant that massive fish-kills were commonplace. Lakes were “dead” or dying, and rivers containing more waste than water actually caught fire. It was around that time, in the 1970s, when Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund got their start. The organizations’ missions were – and remain – focused on a goal and vision of fishable, swimmable, drinkable water for all Americans.
Fast-forward four decades. Laws such as the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, created and passed with help from Clean Water Action and others, have brought incredible progress on water cleanup, water restoration and water protection. Everyone has benefited. Our clean water progress is one of the great environmental success stories of our time.
Back to the Future – Water in Trouble
But now things are getting pretty bad for our water, again. Here’s what’s going on:
- New Threats to Our Water – New pollution threats or old ones not yet addressed by laws like the Clean Water Act have started to gain ground. New chemicals enter the marketplace and our water at a far faster pace than the laws can keep up with.
- Old Problems Getting Worse – Pollution that enters the water from our air or runs off the land has yet to be effectively controlled, and its impact has grown to the point where it is now a leading cause of contamination in many waterways.
- Too Much Deferred Maintenance – Pipes and treatment plants that supply our clean water and to treat our wastes are getting old and outdated. They are starting to fail.
Thanks to Clean Water organizations like ours these problems are well understood, along with many of the steps needed to start fixing them so that continued progress can be made.
Polluters Gaining the Upper Hand?
Our water now faces another kind of threat, as well. In Congress and in too many of our state capitals, alarming numbers of politicians have declared war on our water. A majority in the U.S. House is now on record in favor of Dirty Water, with votes for H.R. 2018, a bill that would cripple the Clean Water Act.
How to respond? We need to make sure that the voices of people who care about our water are being heard. We need to make sure that officials who have taken on an extreme agenda that benefits a small number of the nation’s largest polluters, at everyone else’s expense, are held accountable for their votes to weaken water and health protections
Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund bring people together to advance our shared values, building a clean water future for everyone. We educate, involve and organize people one-on-one where they live, work and play, to take a more active role in decisions that affect our water and our health. We show people how they can make a difference for our water, individually – through actions in their own homes and daily lives, and collectively – by joining with others to make the majority’s support for clean water more of a force to be reckoned with.
Survey Findings Inform Clean Water Strategy
If you want to be effective engaging the public to stop the attacks and restore our nation’s historic commitment to clean water, it helps to know where people are on these issues today. Clean Water Fund turned to SurveyMonkey Audience to learn more. Our recently conducted survey revealed the following:
- Water issues continue to rank among Americans’ top environmental concerns, confirming many earlier studies’ findings.
- People care a lot about drinking water in particular, but are also very concerned about the clean water legacy we will leave for future generations.
- Polluters’ arguments that clean water and health protections must be sacrificed to benefit the economy are not found to be credible, and many respondents agree that stronger protections will actually benefit the economy.
- Awareness of Congress’ record of recent votes to weaken water and health protections remains quite low, but survey respondents overwhelming disapprove of such actions and would vote against candidates taking those positions.
Some takeaways that will inform program strategies going forward:
- Many more people need to hear about what’s going on with our water and will be likely to respond strongly once they do.
- Focus on drinking water and stewardship of water for future generations when raising these issues with most audiences.
- Document and publicize the emerging record of Dirty Water votes so that people who are concerned about their water can participate more effectively and begin to restore the balance that is missing.
So, what can you do to help?
If you’re interested in supporting Clean Water Fund, register for SurveyMonkey Contribute and select the Fund as your default charity. For every survey you take, $0.50 will be donated to support Clean Water Fund’s efforts around the grassroots water protection movement.
To get directly involved with Clean Water Fund and Clean Water Action, click here.
Jonathan Scott, communications and corporate relations programs for Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund.
Do you know of any other charities that might be interested in partnering with us? Sound off in the comments section below.