In Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, River and Water Organizations, River Restoration and Protection, Water conservation, Water Quality, Water Scarcity

2020 Trends Report on State of Water Protection Shows Hope, But More Progress Needed for Sector Diversity

BOULDER, COLORADO December, 2020 – National organization River Network released a 2020 trends report called Our Water, Our Future: State of River and Watershed Protection this week. The report outlines current conditions of waterways in the U.S. including opportunities and threats to water quality and quantity, and provides an analysis of the diversity of the workforce within the river and watershed protection community. This report builds on River Network’s first trends report, released in May 2016.

The results shared that 50% believe that conditions are improving for our nation’s waterways, an increase from the just 36% who held that belief in 2016. While this represents hope and great potential for unity, the report states that, for progress towards healthier rivers, and the ability to address issues of water quality or quantity with as cohesive and detailed an approach as possible, we must work across boundariesbe they urban versus rural, drinking water versus recreation, or others.

The report also stresses the continued need for river and watershed protection efforts to reflect the interests and the diversity of the communities being served. While women made modest increases both overall and in senior leadership positions across the water workforce, under 10% of positions are held by Black, Indigenous, and Other People of Color (BIPOC), a number that is largely stagnant from 2016.

“Our country is stronger because it is diverse, and so too will be our organizations and our solutions. With our population quickly approaching the point where white people will be a minority, to remain socially relevant, our organizations and our movement should reflect the diversity of society as a whole. We made this statement five years ago in our October 2015 issue of River Voices and there are pockets where change is underway, examples we can point to that show us how to move forward, and momentum we can build upon in our quest to reframe our work to benefit everyone. This is what gives me hope, what I dream about, what I know is within reach,” says Nicole Silk, River Network’s President.

Read more from Nicole Silk.

Workspaces that are inclusive and diverse will help our sector build solutions that leave no one behind, expand our exposure to challenges at the intersection of water and equity, and strengthen our efforts overall. To increase diversity within our organizations, we need mentorship and retention strategies as well as goals, metrics, and indicators that help us hold ourselves accountable, according to the report.

Data for this report came from nearly 800 survey respondents from across the United States, including tribal representatives, academics, conservation professionals, river advocates, government officials, and concerned citizens. View the full report >

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