Building a Movement for Healthy Urban Waters

With support from the EPA Urban Waters Federal Partnership and from New Jersey’s Watershed Institute, from July 26-28 the LRWP joined dozens of other urban waters communities from around the United States and Puerto Rico for the 2016 Urban Waters National Training Workshop in Washington, DC.

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership, now in its 4th year, is an innovative union of 14 federal agencies working to provide integrated support to communities – particularly under-served and economically distressed communities – as they transform their local urban waters into treasured centerpieces for community revitalization.

Anacostia River spray park - 2016

Splash pool along DC’s Anacostia River – image, Heather Fenyk

At the Training Workshop communities told stories of how their urban rivers, streams, forests and wetlands are polluted, degraded or inaccessible. But they also highlighted examples of how they are working to measure the relationship between clean, safe and accessible waters environments and improved public health, stronger local economies and lower crime rates.

Mayors talked about making clean water a part of every conversation, and about turning to the water to revive civic life. Volunteer water quality monitors talked about the new perspectives gained by “discovering” regional landscapes through their work. And community organizers showed how process is as important as the final product in terms of sustaining the work to clean up our rivers and streams.

We also had the chance to tour areas like DC’s Anacostia River – a slow-moving diurnal water body dotted with CSOs – to be inspired by how creative landscape design integrates CSO infrastructure, safe river access and play spaces to formerly derelict sites.

As groups from around the country shared how deeper connections to our local water bodies can bring community energy that will lead to healthier urban waters, improved public health, strengthened local businesses, and new jobs it became clear that our work in the Lower Raritan Watershed contributes to an important national movement to clean up our urban rivers, streams and watersheds.

 

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