Blue Communities Water Page Card

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Clean Water

Make your city a Blue Community

Protecting water everywhere starts with us. Learn how you can take back control of your public water.

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New York’s Utility Shut-Off Moratorium Extended

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Clean Water

Albany, NY — Last night, Governor Cuomo signed S.1453-B/A.6225-A into law, extending New York’s statewide life-saving utility shut-off moratorium, which had expired on March 31. The law extends the statewide moratorium on utility shut-offs, including water, heat, electric, telephone, cable and broadband services until the conclusion of the COVID-19 state of emergency or until December 31, 2021, whichever comes first. For New Yorkers who suffer financial harm due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the law enshrines a further moratorium extension of 180 days.

Research from Food & Water Watch demonstrated the life-saving effect of water shut-off moratoria during the COVID-19 pandemic, and further studies have shown that the negative impacts of utility shut-offs disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color in New York. Environmental, legal aid, consumer protection and social justice organizations applauded Senator Kevin Parker and Assembly Member Diana Richardson for their leadership on the bill, and commended Cuomo for his signature.

Advocates lauded new strengthened provisions to the moratorium, including:

  • Establishes a moratorium on water liens, which can lead to home foreclosure
  • Gives state agencies authority to enforce the law against public water utilities
  • Increases the frequency of public notification
  • Provides new protections for tenants

“New York’s utility shut-off moratorium has proven to be a critical component of fighting the spread of COVID-19,” said Food & Water Watch Senior New York Organizer Eric Weltman. “While vaccination rates rise, many New Yorkers are still subject to the perils of the enduring pandemic, and all are in need of continual access to water and other essential services to remain healthy. We are proud to see the life-saving moratorium extended, and look ahead to securing the right to water and essential services for all New Yorkers, regardless of personal situation or state of emergency.”

“All New Yorkers need access to clean water, even as many continue to struggle economically due to the lasting impacts of the pandemic. The Governor and Legislature have taken an essential protective step by extending and strengthening the state’s ban on utility shut offs,” said Larry Levine, Director of Urban Water Infrastructure & Senior Attorney at NRDC. “The state’s most vulnerable are helped greatly by new protections against lien sales and foreclosures for overdue water bills, and the state can build on these protections by creating a permanent water affordability program that ensures safe water is always accessible to everyone, regardless of income.”

Liz Moran, Environmental Policy Director for NYPIRG, said, “Every New Yorker, regardless of where they live, race, or class, should have access to clean and safe water — this basic need has been strongly highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. No one should fear that their water will be shut off at any time, but especially during a time when hand-washing and practicing proper hygiene is critical to prevent the spread of a deadly illness. NYPIRG thanks the Governor and the Legislature for taking this crucial action to protect public health.”

“Access to water during Year One of the COVID-19 pandemic was vital to stopping the spread and limiting the loss of human life,” said Richard Berkley, Executive Director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York. “PULP thanks the Governor, Senator Parker and Assembly Member Richardson for extending the moratorium for Year Two of the pandemic and making sure that vulnerable New Yorkers have water, telecommunications and energy so they can attend school from home, work from home and get medical care from the safe shelter of their homes. Hand washing fought the pandemic, but water is a human necessity at all times.”

“The Western New York Law Center congratulates the Legislature and Governor for enacting crucial legislation extending and expanding protections to New Yorkers facing water shut offs and debt attributable to the economic deprivations caused by COVID. Untold thousands of New Yorkers across the State will benefit from this law. In the past, Buffalo’s most vulnerable residents have suffered greatly from water shut offs and onerous water debt. The consumer protections in this new law will relieve them of a burden and worry in the immediate future. We look forward to further, long-term remedial legislation dealing with water affordability and rearrange forgiveness,” said Joe Kelemen, executive director of the Western New York Law Center.

Rob Hayes, Director of Clean Water at Environmental Advocates NY, said “This pandemic has brought to light a water affordability crisis not only in New York, but across the country. We are grateful that state lawmakers have both extended and strengthened New York’s moratorium, establishing some of the strongest consumer protections in the country. We are glad that New Yorkers will continue to be protected from harmful shut-offs if they cannot currently afford their utility bills, and we look forward to continuing working to ensure that every New Yorker has affordable drinking water.”

“Governor Cuomo and the Legislature have taken monumental steps to ensure the health and safety of New Yorkers by extending the statewide moratorium on utility shut-offs,” said Kevin M. Quinn, Esq., Supervising Attorney of the Center for Elder Law & Justice in Buffalo, N.Y. “While more and more New Yorkers are being vaccinated, we must remain vigilant in taking necessary precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19. An extension of the moratorium will be instrumental in accomplishing this vital goal. We are thankful for the moratorium extension and we look forward to continued efforts to maintain water affordability for all New Yorkers going forward.”

“Freshwater Future applauds Senator Parker, Assembly Member Richardson and Governor Cuomo for their leadership in ensuring all New Yorkers have access to tap water in their homes to fight this pandemic,” said Kristy Meyer, Associate Director at Freshwater Future. “Now we must work together to ensure all New Yorkers have access to safe, clean and affordable water even after the moratorium has expired.”

Newsom Expands California Drought Emergency, Commits $5.1 Billion to Water Infrastructure and Debt Relief

Categories

Clean Water

Sacramento, CA — Governor Gavin Newsom announced an expansion of the drought emergency to 41 of the state’s 58 counties, dedicating $5.1 billion to boost water infrastructure and an additional $1 billion to paying off nearly the entirety of Californian household water debt. Yet, while the governor’s plan includes $150 million for groundwater cleanup and water recycling measures, it does nothing to speed up the process to bring overdrafted water basins into full and sustainable operation. The deadline is currently 2040 for critically overdrafted basins and 2042 for remaining high and medium priority basins.

“It’s gratifying to see Governor Newsom addressing the critical water supply issues in our state and providing much-needed water debt relief, but ultimately his drought relief plan mirrors his approach to oil and gas drilling,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Alexandra Nagy. “The current Sustainable Groundwater Management Act sets a deadline of 2040 to bring our most overdrafted and stressed water basins into sustainable operation. The people relying on that groundwater need it now, not 19 years from now. And just as obviously, the governor could divert the massive amount of water needed for fracking to help Californians going thirsty if he banned the practice now. We need Gov. Newsom to step up his timeline. Our frontline communities shouldn’t have to wait on his political will.”

The dry vast majority of critically overdrafted water basins are in the Central Valley, one of the poorest regions in the country and home to water-intensive extractive practices like fracking and factory farming. Gov. Newsom has committed to banning new fracking permits by 2024, allowing continued fossil fuel extraction and water usage until that time. He has taken no action to ban factory farms or curb their water intake. 

Contact: Jessica Gable – [email protected]

Water Problems Add To Widespread Environmental Injustice. Two Major Bills Could Change That.

Categories

Clean Water

by Rianna Eckel

Two landmark pieces of legislation could change our future. The Biden administration’s next big move is passing the American Jobs Plan, his proposal to repair our crumbling infrastructure — from bridges, roads, and public transportation to our underground water pipes and treatment systems. It is an actual plan to put real federal dollars — not fake privatization schemes — into the systems critical to society. This is a chance to stop our growing water crisis, and to finally treat water as what it is: a basic necessity and human right. 

Additionally, we’ve been pushing to fully fund our water systems for nearly a decade by working to pass the WATER Act (S916 / HR 1352), sponsored this Congress by Representatives Brenda Lawrence and Ro Khanna, and Senator Bernie Sanders. The WATER Act has been cosponsored by over 80 Members of Congress, and endorsed by more than 550 organizations who share the same vision: universal access to safe, affordable, public drinking water. 

Congress will be considering the President’s plan over the coming months, and it’s crucial that we win big for water justice. These negotiations are a huge opportunity to create a real change in our dysfunctional water system. 

Here’s what’s in the preliminary outline of the American Jobs Plan and the WATER Act.

How The Funding Compares For The American Jobs Plan And the WATER Act

American Jobs Plan — $13.9 billion annually

President Biden’s American Jobs Plan proposes $111 billion for our water systems over 8 years, which breaks down to roughly $13.9 billion each year. This is a big increase over the roughly $2 billion a year our water and wastewater systems currently receive — and a huge boost over the $6 billion from the Obama administration’s stimulus after the Great Recession — but it’s just not enough by itself. 

The WATER Act — $35 billion annually

The EPA has said that to comply with existing federal water standards, we must invest more than $35 billion annually in our water and wastewater systems. That’s why the WATER Act would appropriate $35 billion/year in permanent, self-sustaining funding through a water trust fund. We’ll need Congress to increase the total funding to meet the country’s needs, and dedicate permanent funding to a trust fund so that our water isn’t a bargaining chip during annual funding battles. 

Both the American Jobs Plan and the WATER Act recognize that our water systems need real federal money. Both plans would make big corporations pay their fair share to improve public infrastructure. 

Funding Priorities For Minority And Disadvantaged Communities

Black, brown and Indigenous communities have been disproportionately harmed by our water crisis. The money must first go to the communities that need it most. 

The American Jobs Plan would provide $56 billion in grants and low-cost flexible loans to states, Tribes, territories, and disadvantaged communities across the country. President Biden has also promised at least 40 percent of the benefits of the investments will reach disadvantaged communities. 

The WATER Act would require that at least half of funding would be dedicated to disadvantaged communities, dedicates 3 percent of funding as grants to Indigenous Nations, and provides funding for technical assistance to help rural small municipalities and Indigenous communities improve their water and wastewater systems. It would also dramatically expand funding to upgrade and install rural household drinking water wells. 

The WATER Act would also require the EPA to produce guidance on water affordability programs, and to coordinate a study about water affordability, civil rights violations by water and sewer providers, water shutoffs, and more.

Both proposals get much needed money to impacted communities, but the WATER Act would provide a bigger pool of funding. We cannot allow our water and wastewater systems to perpetuate environmental racism, and must have enough funding to go around. Congress must require the federal government to act so no communities face an undue burden in the future. 

Dedicating Funding Specifically For Lead and PFAS Contamination

Too many people don’t have tap water they can actually drink. Pollutants like lead or PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are extremely harmful to our health. This infrastructure package must remediate them now. 

President Biden’s plan makes a bold environmental justice commitment to eliminate all lead service lines going into homes, investing $45 billion in grants for impacted communities. This comes close to what the American Water Works Association estimates it will cost to eradicate these toxic pipes — the main source of lead-in-water poisoning. 

The American Jobs Plan would also provide $10 billion in funding to monitor and address PFAS in drinking water, and invest in rural small water systems and household wells. 

The WATER Act would guarantee that money from the total funding level could be used to provide grants to utilities and private properties to replace homeowners’ at-risk service lines. It also expands a grant program to replace all lead piping and plumbing in public schools, dedicating $1.1 billion a year to schools. 

The WATER Act would also provide safe alternatives when community water systems or household water wells are contaminated with PFAS.

Both the WATER Act and American Jobs Plan have funding for expansive lead remediation and address PFAS — a non-negotiable priority.

Keeping Water Corporations From Raiding Federal Funding

Private corporations should not be able to profiteer off of a basic necessity. Water privatization generally leaves customers with higher bills (59% higher on average), declining water quality, and worse service — in the name of profit. 

The WATER Act is the only explicitly pro-public water funding proposal. It would limit funding eligibility to publicly owned water systems and small, locally owned private systems. It allows communities to use funds to buy their water systems and exit water privatization contracts.

It’s critical for Congress to keep water under community control by blocking water companies’ access to federal funds. 

American Jobs Plan And WATER Act Are Great For Workers’ Rights And Jobs

Investing in our infrastructure will create jobs. According to the Clean Water Council, every $1 billion in water infrastructure investment creates an estimated 20,003 to 26,669 jobs and can have far-reaching benefits, tripling in size with total demand for goods and services estimated at $2.87 to $3.46 billion.

Biden’s proposal has incredibly strong provisions to support workers. Importantly, it includes the PRO Act, which would require that employers follow strong labor standards and remain neutral when their employees seek to form a union. It also includes provisions to promote local hiring, create more apprenticeship and training opportunities, and provide $10 billion for workplace safety enforcement. 

The WATER Act will create up to 1 million good, reliable jobs across the country. The WATER Act’s worker protections are tied specifically to projects funded by the legislation, encourage the use of union labor, require that the prevailing wage law be applied, and mandate the use of U.S.-made iron and steel on water system projects. 

Congress should protect the labor provisions in the final infrastructure bill, and include the passage of the PRO Act. We must create good union jobs while fixing our water crisis. 

Our Leaders Must Protect Our Water Access While Planning For Infrastructure 

Over the next few months we’ll be organizing to pressure Congress to pass a strong infrastructure plan that prioritizes water at the level our communities need. In this moment of crisis, we cannot just return to the way things were, but truly create the future we want — where every person has access to safe, affordable public water. 

The convergence of the pandemic and climate change has only deepened the harm that communities face. We can’t wait any longer. Water is not a luxury; it is something that we all need to live. 

Sign on to show your support for the WATER Act!

After 100 Days, Biden and Congress Must Do More to Address Water Crises in America

Categories

Clean Water

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Senate is poised to pass the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, which would authorize $35 billion in funding over the next five years for drinking water and wastewater systems. The expected passage comes a day after President Biden gave his first address to Congress to outline progress and promote his infrastructure plan including his commitment to eliminate all lead water pipes and deliver clean water to all. The president’s American Jobs Plan would provide $111 billion over eight years to drinking water and wastewater services.

“Our communities cannot afford a compromise on safe water. This Senate legislation authorizes critical programs and higher funding levels, but it simply isn’t enough,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “We need bold and transformative support for water infrastructure through the WATER Act and in the administration’s American Jobs Plan to ensure that we build stronger, more resilient and more accessible water systems. No one should be denied access to safe water.”

Meanwhile, upon Biden’s 100th day in office, he has yet to take action to protect all people in the United States from the threat of losing utility service due to unaffordable bills and water debt. By May 1, two-thirds of the country will not be protected under a local or state water shutoff moratoria, leaving 216 million people vulnerable to possible disconnection. This includes the lapse of a statewide moratorium in New York State, where the state legislature has passed an extension but has yet to send the bill to the Governor for his signature. Only California, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia and Washington State still have comprehensive statewide water shutoff protections in place. 

Ms. Hauter continued: “President Biden must deliver on his promise of providing clean water to every person in the country. Among the many lessons learned during this ongoing pandemic is that universal access to safe water is critical for public health and the functioning of our society. Water is a basic human right, and every person deserves access to safe water regardless of their ability to pay unaffordable utility bills. President Biden must affirm this human right by acting now and ordering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use their public health authority to institute a nationwide water shutoff moratorium now.”

Although Congress has approved $1.1 billion in low-income water bill assistance, the funding has not been released yet to aid local households and it falls far short of the more than $8 billion in estimated household arrears. Hundreds of thousands of people face the threat of water shutoff because of water debts accrued during the economic hardship of the pandemic.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected], 917.363.6615

The Blue Communities Movement

April 2021

The Movement At A Glance

  • 1: OVERVIEW
    • Learn how Blue Communities started and see sample resolutions.
  • 2: THE BACKGROUND
    • Find out why it’s crucial to become a Blue Community.
  • 3: STEPS TO BECOME A BLUE COMMUNITY
    • Learn about launching your own Blue Community campaign and
      register for a free toolkit!

Part 1:

Overview

Learn how Blue Communities started and see sample resolutions.

Protecting Our Water Locally & Nationally

We can transform our country to ensure that every person has access to safe, clean, affordable, public tap water.

On a national level on our Food & Water Action side, we’re working to pass the WATER Act in Congress to support this vision and provide a comprehensive solution to support public water for all.

You can take action in your own community by passing a local resolution to turn your city or town into a Blue Community.

A Blue Community:

Recognizes water and sanitation as human rights;

Rejects water privatization in all its forms; and

Bans or phases out bottled water in government buildings and at municipal events.

Here’s a sample resolution for any municipality in the United States to protect residents’ water.

The First Blue Community

In 2011, Burnaby in British Columbia, Canada, became the first Blue Community. Since then, 80 communities around the world have joined the effort — check out this map by the Council of Canadians:

Almost 25 million people now live in official Blue Communities that have pledged to promote water as a human right, protect water as a public trust and public service, and phase out bottled water in government buildings and events. These cities include Montreal, Vancouver, Paris, Berlin and Brussels. 

Here’s a sample resolution for any municipality in the United States to protect residents’ water including factory farming and fracking side effects.

In the United States, Northampton, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles, California, have become Blue Communities, but we have a lot more work to turn our country blue.

Part 2:

The Background

Find out why it’s crucial to become a Blue Community.

What Are the Issues?

1 Water as a basic human right is under attack.

Across the United States, toxic water and unaffordable water bills are infringing on the basic human rights of millions of people, hurting poor people and Black and Indigenous communities of color the most. In a typical year, an estimated 15 million people in the country experience a water shutoff, losing basic water service simply because they cannot afford to pay their water bills. Water is intrinsic to living a life with dignity, and to life itself. We need water to drink, cook food, bathe, clean, wash our hands and flush our toilets. In the midst of a global pandemic, this basic essential need for water has never been clearer.

2 Water privatization undermines the basic human right.

At its core, turning water over to a for-profit company abdicates a basic government responsibility to protect and promote the human right to water. Water privatization gives a water corporation control over an essential service, typically leading to higher rates and worse service. On average, private water companies charge 59% more than local government charge households, while customer service declines. Outsourcing typically leads to a loss of one in three water jobs, slowing maintenance and customer service requests. 

3 Bottled water undermines the human right to water.

Bottled water companies like Nestlē extract local water supplies to put in plastic bottles and ship around the world to generate profit. Bottled water costs thousands of times more than local tap water – it’s more expensive than gasoline. Bottled water uses upwards of 82 million barrels of oil to generate 4 billion of pounds of plastic – enough to fill the Empire State building more than 1.3 times each year – and most of these bottles end up in landfills. People and the environment lose.

Part 3:

Steps To Become A Blue Community

Learn about launching your own Blue Community campaign and register for a free toolkit!

Step 1: Launch A Campaign

Initial Planning Meeting

An initial planning meeting is a good way to bring together others interested in becoming the core group that can work to get the Blue Communities resolution passed.

You can recruit people to an initial planning meeting by talking with others who care about the human right to water and representatives of organizations who might have an interest in working to pass a local resolution — including community-based environmental organizations, housing groups, labor unions, religious organizations and other groups in your community. 

You can also do general outreach by inviting people on email lists, posting to social media, hanging up flyers in high-traffic areas and asking others to spread the word.

Step 2: Develop A Strategy

The next step is doing your homework and planning a strategy. You’ll need to clearly identify your goal, understand how your city council or local decision-making body works, and map out a strategy for moving the resolution forward.

a. Have a clear goal: The goal is to pass a Blue Communities resolution. Food & Water Watch has two different templates that you can use: one resolution is focused on the principles of a Blue Community, and the other one encompasses Food & Water Watch’s long-term goals including banning fracking and factory farms. Choose the one that makes the most sense for your community. 

b. Identify decision makers: To pass the resolution, you will need the support of your city or town council to vote in favor of it, so take a look at the council and identify who will likely support it, who will likely oppose it, and who may be undecided. Questions to ask: How many votes do you need to pass it? Are there key members whom others listen to and have the power to move something like this? Does the mayor have a vote on the council just like any other member, or do they have the power to veto a resolution if it is passed?

c. Take stock of your resources: Questions to ask: Who is in your core group and what resources do they bring? Who has relationships with members of the council? Are there representatives of other organizations, and if so, how many members do they have? Could they help with things like getting people to key meetings? Who has time — and how much time — to put into the campaign?

d. Identify allies and opponents, if any, and their power: Your initial meeting is just a starting place. You’ll want to think about other individuals and organizations that might help you. Think particularly about who might have some power or influence with council members. Consider what these potential allies’ interests are — why they would care about your campaign and what they might bring to the campaign, as well as who from your group will contact them. Also think about any potential opponents. Who might oppose the resolution, what power do they have over the city council members and what might they do to fight the resolution? Think about what arguments they might make to council members and how you would respond to them. Food & Water Watch can help with this.

e. Map out an initial timeline: Your campaign will evolve over time, but you should map out an initial timeline that your core group is accountable for and make sure your plans are realistic and achievable. Make sure to not take everything on yourself. A campaign will be much more fun and successful if work is spread among several people, with each taking the lead on different aspects of the campaign.

Step 3: Get Public Support

You’ll need to do outreach to demonstrate widespread support for the Blue Community resolution in your community. This outreach can take two forms: organizations and individuals.

a. Organizations: You can talk with representatives of local organizations and businesses you think will support your Blue Community campaign. Food & Water Watch will provide you with a sample sign-on letter and you can ask them to sign on to it. This will give you a document listing influential supporters that you can share with city council members to demonstrate widespread support for becoming a Blue Community. It will also give you a list of groups you can invite into your campaign and who can help publicize council hearings to their members and generate attendance.

b. Individuals: You will also want to get large numbers of individuals to support your campaign by signing a petition in support of becoming a Blue Community. Food & Water Watch will provide a petition tool to collect names, addresses, emails and phone numbers of supporters. Food & Water Watch can help you set up your online petition. During the pandemic, we urge you to use digital tools to collect petitions online, by email and by text. We can send you a number for a text opt-in that you can put on flyers around town to allow you to collect signatures easily. Set goals for yourselves and remember to reach out to people who are constituents of the council members you are asking to support the resolution. Gathering more signatures from the district of a hesitant council member is a great tactic. After collecting signatures, call or email the people who signed it and invite them to get involved in the campaign itself. Calling is always better, but if you only have an email address, of course use that.

Step 4: Meet With Council Members

You need to engage with the council members who can pass the resolution after you’ve built strong support for it. Once you have that, you will be able to make a bolder ask and your elected representatives will be more likely to give you what you want. If you have a strong enough group and enough individuals and organizations supporting the resolution, it will be much harder for them to say no.

a. Identify a sponsor and make a strong ask: Who you want to sponsor your resolution depends on a lot of factors. The best sponsor will be someone who is strongly supportive of the Blue Communities resolution and has good relationships with other members of the council. It’s difficult to pass something when the lead sponsor is someone who has alienated their peers. You also want a sponsor who will stay strong with you and not compromise on the values of the resolution. 

Once you identify this member, make a strong ask. Meet with the council member in a small group. Bring a couple of lead organizational supporters who have some power in the council member’s district — people who might have helped deliver votes in the member’s last election or have significant membership in the district. Also, make sure to bring your coalition letter and copies of the petitions you’ve gathered. An elected official will take you seriously when you can demonstrate you represent a significant number of people.

When you make your ask, be direct and polite. If you’ve done your homework and identified a member who is supportive, this should be an easy ask. Give them a copy of the resolution you want introduced, get their commitment to introduce it, and talk with the member about when the resolution will be brought for a hearing and vote. You should also ask their opinion about other council members — where they might stand and whether the sponsor can talk with them about supporting your resolution.

b. Meeting with other council members: After you have a council member to introduce the resolution, set up meetings with the other council members to determine how they will vote. Set up meetings in advance by emailing or calling their offices (this will depend on the size of your city/town and you and your allies’ relationship with the members). Make sure that when you meet with them, representatives of other organizations join you that have members in the appropriate districts and/or constituents from their districts. Bring the coalition letter and petition copies. If your council members are elected by district, be prepared to tell them the number of people in their districts that signed the petition, because that will be most important to them.

Make a direct ask for each council member to support the resolution and get a clear answer. If they ask for more information, provide it for them. If you do not know the answer to a question, tell them you will get back with them. If they do not commit to supporting the resolution at the initial meeting, set a follow-up meeting to get their position.

If you do not get a commitment from any of the members, and especially if there is opposition, you will want to implement additional tactics to pressure those members. Get people from their districts to call and ask for their support, organize people in their districts or organize people

to write letters to local newspapers calling on the council members who are undecided to support the resolution. Do more petition gathering and organizational outreach to increase the pressure on your target. You don’t want the council to take a vote unless you think you have a good chance of the resolution passing.

Step 5: Pressure The Council Members

Before the council votes, demonstrate public support for the resolution through public comments at hearings or council meetings, traditional news media and social media, and calls and petitions into offices. 

a. Public comments or testimony. There will be opportunity for the public to weigh in during a council meeting or public hearing. Every hearing or public comment period is a chance to educate and mobilize people to support Blue Communities. You’ll want to pack the meetings. That is critical to getting it passed. There are several ways to do this: Call all the groups that signed your letter in support of the resolution and ask them to come to the hearing and invite their members. Call everyone that has signed the petition supporting the resolution, tell them about the meeting and ask them to come. Send notices about the hearing on community email lists and through social media like Facebook and Twitter. Line up good speakers who can explain all the reasons your community should become a Blue Community and why council members need to support the resolution.

Though it varies by state, cities or towns will usually allow members of the public to speak on issues that are on the agenda, pursuant to the state’s open meeting laws. You may have to sign up just before or at the beginning of the hearing. Make sure to get there early for that reason — also important for getting good seats! Encourage everyone to fill out speaker cards, as there may be a limit to the number of speakers. Have your top speakers lined up. If one of them doesn’t get called, someone else may be able to give them his or her time slot. Prepare in advance and make a strong argument why the council should pass the resolution. 

Whoever speaks first should ask everyone who is there supporting the resolution to stand up or hold up their signs or identify themselves in some public way so the council can see how broad the support is. People who represent groups should identify those groups and who they represent. Someone should also read off a list of all the organizations and businesses that signed the group letter supporting the resolution.

If your town allows people to bring signs into the council meetings, make and bring signs that clearly call for supporting Blue Communities. If not, make sure everyone on your side is clearly identified by wearing a Blue shirt or outfit. Give everyone who comes to the hearing an 81⁄2” x 11” piece of paper that says in large letters “Turn our Community Blue!” When members of the council look out at the audience, they should see their constituents support becoming a Blue Community.

b. Media outreach: Media coverage serves a few important purposes. It can put pressure on members of the council to support the resolution, help educate other members of the community about the issue, and energize your supporters about your campaign. So, getting your issue in the media will be important.

Letters to the editor: A letter to the editor is a 150-to-250-word letter that anyone can submit to the editorial page of a newspaper. Food & Water Watch can send you a letter template, but it is important that your letter is different and comes directly from the person submitting it. In large cities, it is unlikely that a newspaper will print a letter unless it responds to some article that the paper has written. In that case, keep an out for water-related news that you could tie your letter to as a response. Then get several people to submit letters that use that article to call for support of becoming a Blue Community. 

Reach out to reporters: The main way to alert reporters about an upcoming hearing or vote on a resolution is a media advisory. This is a short statement that has the “who, what, when, where and why” of the hearing. Food & Water Watch will send you a sample media advisory that you can edit with the right information and email to the key reporters at least a day in advance of the hearing. Call the reporters and talk with them about the resolution and why your community needs it. Be brief and clear — reporters are busy and probably won’t want to chitchat, but a good pitch explaining why the issue is significant to your community and why a reporter should cover the issue might result in some coverage in advance of a hearing or vote.

Social media: before the vote, ask all the organizational and petition signers to post on their social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) in support of the resolution and tag your council member, if they are on that platform. Food & Water Watch will send you a sample social media toolkit to use with sample posts and images.

c. Calls into the council members: Before the vote, council members need to hear from their constituents personally about why they should support the Blue Communities resolution. Reach out to all the organizations on the sign on letter and all the petition signers to ask them to call the council members. Food & Water Watch will send you a sample call script. A call should take about two minutes. Calls are the best simple way for elected officials to know that an issue is important to their constituents.

Step 6: Celebrate Victory

If the resolution does not pass the first time, don’t give up! It just means you need to do more organizing and generate more public pressure on your council. Go back to step one and hold a meeting to consider next steps. You can still build a larger, more powerful group to show that more people support the resolution. Remember, officials are ultimately elected by the voters and are accountable to the people. You’ll need to organize more to demonstrate a majority of their constituents support becoming a Blue Community.

When the resolution passes, congratulations! 

You’ve done some great work! Celebrate that victory with all the supporters! This is something we don’t do often enough. Celebrating victories is important because we deserve to feel great when we win and also because it builds community and will energize everyone for the next fight.

Once you’ve gotten a resolution passed supporting the Blue Communities, don’t forget to send the resolution to Food & Water Watch — we are tracking all the resolutions passed. When yours is passed, send a copy to us and we’ll share it on our Facebook page where activists across the country can see it. We want to publicize your win! 

Then leverage your newly powerful group to build your next campaign! Beyond the local resolution, there is much more to do. Take some time and work with your group to pick a new goal and identify a new target to take action in support of Blue Communities (maybe you can move on to the County Commission), or to gather federal support for your local community water system by asking your Congress members to cosponsor the WATER Act. By continuing to build and mobilize in communities across the country we can make amazing changes. So keep organizing!

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National Consumer Organization Urges Binghamton Elected Officials to Reject Veolia Contract

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release

Binghamton, NY — Today, Food & Water Watch issued a letter to Mayor Richard David and members of the Binghamton City Council, amplifying the chorus of residents opposed to a proposed contract with Veolia to audit municipal wastewater services in Binghamton. The letter comes in advance of the next City Council meeting on April 21, where a vote on the contract is expected to take place.

In the letter, advocates warn that the proposed audit contract is a foot in the door on a larger sewer privatization deal, with significant potential negative outcomes for the city, including:

  • Sewer privatization can lead to degraded services;
  • Sewer privatization can result in higher costs for the public; and
  • Sewer privatization can leave communities without local control of essential services.

Veolia’s bad track record is also highlighted, noting multiple instances where cities had to foot the bill or take Veolia to court over improper water and wastewater management. For more information on Veolia, see their corporate profile here.

In response, Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Eric Weltman issued the following statement:

“When a controversial international corporation with a scandalous track record of lawsuits and poor service comes to town and offers a ‘win-win’ contract, the red flag must go up. From Idaho to Massachusetts, Veolia has entered communities and disrupted essential services for the benefit of outsourced corporate profit — Binghamton must not suffer the same fate. Mayor David and the Binghamton City Council must reject Veolia and commit to full public provision of water and wastewater operations.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, Food & Water Watch, [email protected]

Massive Water Merger Would Create Dangerous Corporate Monopoly

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release

Washington D.C. – Today, Veolia announced an agreement in principle to acquire Suez through a $15 billion deal that would merge the two largest water corporations in the world.

In response, Food & Water Watch Public Water for All Campaign Director Mary Grant issued the following statement:

“Veolia’s plan to dominate public water services all across the globe is becoming a terrifying reality. The merger of the world’s largest water corporations will erode any semblance of competition for water privatization deals. This lack of competition will worsen our water affordability crisis, eliminate good union jobs, and open the door to cronyism and corruption. 

“Water privatization has been a disaster for communities across the United States and around the world. Municipalities struggling with budget crises linked to the COVID pandemic may consider selling off their valuable water systems as a short-term response to plug budget gaps. This would create long-term harm. Communities must revert all privatized water and sewer systems to public control to ensure safety and affordability for all.”

Contact: Peter Hart, [email protected]

Rockland Residents Demand Greater State Action on County Water Crisis

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release

New City, NY — This morning, Rockland County residents called on Governor Cuomo and his administration to take concrete steps to protect public health from chemical contamination in the county’s water supply, presenting a petition signed by over one thousand residents to the governor. The Rockland Water Coalition, along with allies and elected officials, urged Governor Cuomo to undertake measures to monitor, publicly disclose, and cleanup PFAS or “forever chemicals” in the County’s water supply. The Rockland Water Coalition, along with allies including Food & Water Watch, Riverkeeper, NYPIRG and Environmental Advocates of New York has been mobilizing for months.

In a press conference today (video link), local residents, including health care professionals, parents, middle school students, members of the clergy, educators and non-profit organizers, spoke out against the dangers of PFAS contamination. PFAS pose serious risks to human health including high cholesterol, thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancer, and impacts on fertility. Speakers emphasized the particular dangers for pregnant women and children, which include decreased fertility, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and correlations with low birth weight. Exposure to PFAS has also been shown to cause adverse impacts on the liver and immune system, with a link to decreased vaccine response and neurobehavioral effects, including ADHD.

Inadequate action by the Cuomo administration on this issue has put the County’s public health supply at risk for months since the chemicals were initially discovered last year.

“It is genuinely frightening to think that my children have been and are being exposed to toxic chemicals in their drinking water,” said Molly Findlay, a mother and Rockland resident. “These are chemicals for which there are no known safe limits.”

“When we speak for the youth, we say that there are NO acceptable levels of toxic PFAS in drinking water anywhere,” said 13-year-old Blue Rock School Student Anna Palitti. “We demand action from local and government officials to treat this as an emergency.”

“Here in the U.S. we presume water from our faucet is clean and safe,” said Sr. Dorothy Maxwell. “It’s a terrible thing that in the U.S., one of the richest countries on earth, we are being exposed to toxic chemicals in our drinking water.” 

“Public health is at serious risk in Rockland County, and the Cuomo administration must step up their monitoring efforts and intervene on the public’s behalf,” said Eric Weltman, Senior New York Organizer with Food & Water Watch, a member of the Rockland Water Coalition. “New Yorkers deserve clean, affordable and safe drinking water, every time they turn on the tap. Governor Cuomo must take action on this issue immediately, before any more residents are put at risk.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, Food & Water Watch [email protected]   
Cliff Weathers, Riverkeeper, [email protected]

Advocates Call on Governor Northam to Join General Assembly Resolution In Declaring Water as a Human Right

Categories

Clean Water

For Immediate Release

Richmond, VA — One month after the Virginia legislature voted to enshrine the human right to water for all in the Commonwealth, advocates are calling on Governor Northam to publicly support the resolution. The resolution, championed by Delegate Lashrecse Aird in tandem with Food & Water Watch and Virginia Interfaith Power & Light affirms the right to clean, potable and affordable water for all. The resolution passed both chambers at a time when water access continues to be challenging for many during the pandemic.

Just last week, new research from Cornell University and Food & Water Watch found that almost half a million COVID infections could have been prevented last year if there had been a national moratorium on water service shutoffs. In Virginia alone, the researchers estimate that almost 15,000 COVID infections could have been prevented if a statewide moratorium had been in place.

“We applaud state legislators for passing Virginia’s Water as a Human Right resolution and  believe that a similarly emphatic declaration from Governor Northam would establish critical safeguards within state agencies to ensure clean, potable and affordable water for all,” said Food & Water Watch Southern Regional Director Jorge Aguilar. “Governor Northam has been committed to ensuring water access during the pandemic and supporting this resolution now is critical to meeting the challenges our state will face in ensuring water justice in the future. 

“We are thrilled that Del. Aird carried the Water Access: Human Right Resolution and that the 2021 General Assembly passed it,” said Rev. Dr. Faith Harris, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light Co-Director. “We encourage Governor Northam, who has previously expressed the importance of water access for human health, to declare water access and affordability a priority among state agencies, especially those tasked with water management or protection assuring quality and access for all Virginia’s residents.” 

Contact: Phoebe Galt, Food & Water Watch [email protected]