Across the country, communities face mounting threats to their water security. Increased climate change-related flooding, sea-level rise, and drought threaten people's homes, lives, and the ecosystems they rely upon. Millions of Americans live in communities that do not have access to reliable safe drinking water. Many live in areas where the cost of water is unaffordable and mounting and children across the country attend schools where their drinking water is contaminated with lead.
Decades of structural racism, infrastructure underinvestment, and unjust policies have created the perfect storm for the unprecedented disruption unleashed in our country by Covid-19. What was once a crisis growing in the dark, the call by medical and public health experts to wash our hands and sanitize our surroundings to protect against Covid-19 has forced our nation to confront its shortcomings. Households and communities across the country — especially Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other communities of color — do not have access to our nation’s most basic PPE: safe and affordable water. Before the pandemic, an estimated 15 million people, mostly people of color struggling with poverty and unemployment, experienced water shutoffs when they couldn’t pay their bills. With the ongoing public health and economic crisis, millions more are at risk of water shutoffs and the water debt across small and large systems is only growing. The devastating correlation between Covid morbidity and water shutoffs further highlights how water is life-sustaining and life-giving.
As a result of these conditions, there has been significant movement in the calls for new equity-focused climate-resilient investment to address the water threats to low-income communities and communities of color.
In April 2018, PolicyLink launched the national Water Equity and Climate Resilience Caucus to build a national network of organizations working to address water equity and climate resilience — centering frontline communities of color and low-income communities, and in 2019, Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy joined the Caucus as co-chair. The Caucus builds a shared analysis and understanding of the problems, codifies policy strategies, and enables members to deliver on water equity results for their communities. The Caucus does this through peer learning, tool, and knowledge development, and also holds shared local, state, and tribal advocacy but primarily focuses on federal advocacy.
Working groups of the caucus focus on policy advocacy that addresses the most impacted communities. These working groups include:
Federal Policy Advocacy:
bi-weekly calls hosted by PolicyLink, to continue federal policy push for low-income water assistance program and infrastructure implementation and expansion to the farm bill, 5-year offshore oil and gas lease, and Stafford bill.
calls every other month hosted by PolicyLink, on infrastructure implementation (eg. state revolving funds).
calls every other month hosted by PolicyLink, bringing arts and culture and comms together to strategize on narrative change.
quarterly calls hosted by GCCLP, building on the efforts of the ocean justice forum to create and advance an ocean policy agenda that promotes the goals of economic, racial, climate, and environmental justice.
quarterly calls hosted by GCCLP, building on the work of core members to lift local climate solutions and adaptations.
Media Expert Guide
The WECR Caucus is driven by the notion that those closest to the challenges are the closest to the solutions. The Caucus consists of a breadth of water protectors, content experts, community leaders, and policy advocates across the country who are working to ensure safe and affordable drinking water, economic inclusion, climate-resilient communities, and cultural rights to water are a reality for all communities across the country.
EarthJustice Earthjustice partners with community organizations to fight for stronger environmental protections in court, Congress, and at the EPA by providing legal expertise and knowledge of federal agency regulatory processes to make the fight for water justice more accessible and efficient for all involved. Media contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Emerald Cities Collaborative Emerald Cities Collaborative (ECC) takes a comprehensive approach to help communities develop and implement cost-saving clean energy and water solutions including policy and project development to save money and energy. ECC aims to improve the health of the planet and people — particularly in low-and moderate-income communities. Media contact: email@example.com
Flint Rising Flint Rising is a coalition of community organizations and allies working to ensure that directly impacted people are building the organizing infrastructure and leadership necessary for this long-haul fight for justice and creating the future that Flint families need and deserve. Media contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ginew Collective Ginew Collective is an indigenous-women, two-spirit led frontline resistance to protect Mother Earth and advance systemic change that respects Indigenous sovereignty and the severity of the climate crisis while prioritizing traditional knowledge, divestment strategies, and water defense on the frontlines such as Line 3. Media contact: email@example.com
Green Latinos GreenLatinos convenes an active comunidad of Latino/a/x leaders where members establish collaborative partnerships and networks to improve the environment; protect and promote conservation of land and other natural resources; amplify the voices of Latinx and other communities of color including low-income and tribal communities; and train, mentor, and promote the current and future generations of Latino environmental leaders for the benefit of the Latino community and beyond. Media contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy Co-chairs of the WECR Caucus, the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) are advancing structural shifts toward climate justice and ecological equity in communities of color on the frontline of climate change in the South and beyond. GCCLP, alongside Movement for Black Lives, anchors the Red, Black Green New Deal, a multi-year multi-issue initiative designed to educate and catalyze Black people to take actions that mitigate the impact of the global climate crisis on Black Lives.
Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch has documented violations of the right to water for nearly 20 years. Since 2013, it has worked to advance the human rights to water and sanitation globally, including investigating how deregulating mountaintop removal threatens drinking water and public health in the United States. Media contact: email@example.com
Sixth World Solutions Sixth World Solutions offers alternative education/training that advances social, environmental, and economic justice while empowering community-based capacities to advance renewable and energy efficiency technologies while honoring the natural order. Media contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hijra House and Steps Coalition
Milwaukee Water Commons Milwaukee Water Commons is a cross-city network that fosters connection, collaboration, and broad community leadership on behalf of Wisconsin’s common waters. They promote stewardship of, equitable access to and shared decision-making for the common waters.
Verde Since 2005, Verde has brought environmental investments to low-income neighborhoods, designed engagement strategies around these investments, and ensured that investments directly benefited low-income people and people of color by building environmental wealth through social enterprise, outreach, and advocacy.
U.S. Water Alliance The Alliance aligns diverse stakeholders — utilities, public agencies, community organizations, environmental groups, agricultural interests, labor, researchers, artists and culture bearers, and many others — to find common ground solutions to our nation’s most pressing water challenges. Media contact: AGardner@uswateralliance.org
We the People of Detroit We the People of Detroit promotes community coalition building and provides mechanisms and vehicles intended to inform, train and mobilize the residents of Detroit to improve their quality of life including access to safe and affordable water and water shutoffs intervention. Media contact: email@example.com