In Water law, Water policy

Collaboration Is Essential for Effective Water Advocacy

This post was co-written by members of River Network’s Policy Team, including Shelby Cline, April Ingle, Erin Kanzig, Campebell Simmons, and Colleen Walters.

Successful advocacy for safe and affordable drinking water, healthy rivers, and climate-resilient communities requires equitably working within diverse coalitions of organizations and individuals to build the necessary power and influence to effect change.

River Network is proud to work alongside, and lift up, a broad array of partners in coalitions to advocate for progress on these essential issues. This list is long, which only underscores how many different voices it takes to advance effective water policy – our team, partners, and many more advocates across the nation are keeping busy!


Clean Water for All Coalition

The Clean Water for All Coalition (CW4A) advocates for national clean water protections, which in turn benefit watersheds across the country, and brings together diverse organizations to build collective power to advance protections and policies to ensure clean, accessible, and affordable water across the nation. River Network is proud to serve on the CW4A Steering Committee and participate in coalition workgroups.

A key priority for the Coalition is the “Protect Our Waters” campaign. The campaign is focused on addressing and finding solutions to avoid devasting impacts to our communities and waterways following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sackett v. EPA case.

The coalition’s Infrastructure Work Group’s current advocacy focuses on adequate funding for – and equitable distribution of – Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRFs), as well as environmental justice mapping and tools. You can learn more on the CW4A Coalition’s website.

The Coalition’s Nutrient Pollution Work Group addresses a range of nutrient pollution issues and solutions. The work group’s current advocacy focuses on the upcoming Farm Bill. The group developed four recommendations to address nutrient pollution in the Farm Bill and engaged members of Congress to make the case for these priorities to be included.

If you’re interested in learning more about the coalition and how you can join, be sure to check out the CW4A Coalition’s website.

Water Equity and Climate Resilience Caucus

The Water Equity and Climate Resilience Caucus (WECR) is composed of core member organizations, allies—such as water utilities and research institutions, and funders. The caucus works toward water security and climate resilience, primarily within frontline communities. River Network is fortunate to be a member of the WECR and have the opportunity to work alongside other members in the WECR work groups.

WECR’s Federal Advocacy work group focuses on building strategy and power around several policy priorities related to water and climate, like the establishment of a permanent federal water assistance program, the continued need for equitable infrastructure investment, workforce development provisions, and climate resilience planning.

WECR’s Climate Resilience workgroup coordinates and builds efforts around water related climate resilience policy. It’s in the process of mapping out nationwide efforts and determining strategies to influence federal efforts to build climate resilience.

America the Beautiful for All Coalition

The America the Beautiful for All Coalition’s (ABT4A) goal is to connect, restore, and conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 (30×30) by uniting land, freshwater, ocean, wildlife, community, recreation, and equity advocates across the nation to drive urgent action by the Biden Administration and other decision-makers while building long-term political power. The Coalition is also focused on ensuring a Justice40 metric is implemented for the US Government’s America the Beautiful Initiative to make certain that at least 40% of investments are made in communities of color and frontline communities that have historically seen little to no investment in conservation and equitable access to nature.

River Network is grateful to work alongside our ATB4A partners and to serve on the ATB4A Steering Committee and ATB4A’s freshwater workgroup. In early 2023, the coalition launched its first annual policy agenda. The policy agenda lays out the coalition’s priorities that, if enacted, will make major progress to advance the Coalition’s 30×30 and Justice40 goals. To learn more about the coalition and how you can join, check out the ATB4A website.

Wild and Scenic Rivers Coalition

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Coalition is an alliance of more than 60 nonprofit organizations working together to protect and defend existing and potential Wild and Scenic Rivers and broaden the movement for their conservation by raising awareness about their value. The coalition, which came together at River Rally 2018 and River Network has supported ever since, focuses on building greater capacity for river organizations to effectively advocate for Wild and Scenic protections; protecting and defending designated and potential Wild and Scenic Rivers; supporting the non-profit and agency river professionals who steward Wild and Scenic Rivers; and communicating the value of Wild and Scenic Rivers. To learn more or join the coalition, visit the WSR Coalition website.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocate for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. River Network is an Ally Member of NSAC, with a focus on participating in and supporting NSAC’s Agricultural Conservation goals and current campaigns focused on the climate and conservation provisions of 2023 Farm Bill.

Regional Coalitions

River Network is also proud to be a member of coalitions focused on clean water policy advocacy for their region. Regional collaboration is a key element of water advocacy work, connecting shared goals and initiatives across entire basins to more effectively protect whole systems for folks who depend on waterways both up and downstream.

The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed amplifies the collective power of 180+ member organizations and other stakeholders to advocate for protections and restoration of the land and waters in the Delaware River Basin with an inclusive, unified voice. In 2020, the Coalition adopted a 5-year strategic direction to advance watershed-wide planning, federal funding, and advocate for federal and state issues.

The Choose Clean Water Coalition harnesses the collective power of 290+ organizations to advocate for clean rivers and streams in all communities in the Chesapeake Bay region. A core part of the Coalition’s work is to coordinate members on a variety of policy priorities that are impacting the Chesapeake Bay watershed through specific workgroups focused on equity, federal affairs, agriculture, energy, stormwater, Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), and communications.

The Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition’s successes include securing a strong Great Lakes restoration plan and more than $2.9 billion in federal funds to clean up toxic pollution, reduce polluted runoff, stop invasive species, and reverse habitat destruction in the Great Lakes region. The coalition’s 170+ members’ current advocacy is focused on ensuring manageable solutions that protect drinking water, jobs, and the region’s way of life; continued federal funding to address issues and future needs; and the upcoming update of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan.

Sharing State-Level Water Policy Successes

River Network is also responding to the network’s desire for examples of model state-level water policy and successful advocacy strategies. Here, we’re creating opportunities for Network members to learn from one another and easily find information on how state policies can improve the health of rivers, increase climate resiliency, and ensure safe, clean, and affordable drinking water.

Our response is a two-pronged approach: first, we convene State Policy Showcase peer calls where state advocates share, compare, and contrast water policy advancements in different states. Second, we collect exemplary state policies in our State Policy Hub, a searchable database that also includes advocate interviews, deep dives on particular state policies, and additional resources ensuring advocates can replicate these successes.

Do you have a state policy win that you want to share with the network in an upcoming State Policy Showcase? Reach out to April Ingle at

Do you want to see a new policy topic covered in the State Policy Hub or want us to add a specific policy? Fill out this quick State Policy Hub suggestions form.

Keeping the Network Informed on the Latest Critical Federal News

Each month River Network partners with Earthjustice, the Clean Water for All coalition, and the Clean Water Network to distribute a policy update newsletter and host a policy update call. We are fortunate that our colleague (and River Network board member) Julian Gonzalez writes a monthly article for the newsletter with all the recent clean water updates from Capitol Hill, federal agencies, and the courts. The newsletter also features water policy action alerts, state water policy news, upcoming learning opportunities, and new water policy resources. On the call, Julian and other water policy experts provide updates and answer questions on the latest water policy news from Washington, D.C., and advocates from around the country share with each other the water policy issues they are working on including their latest wins and challenges. The newsletter and calls are held exclusively for non-profit water advocates, and advocates can sign-up by filling out our Federal Water Policy Update form.

The monthly policy calls & updates from River Network are vital resources for me that help me keep up with what’s happening in Congress and with federal agencies. The intel I receive there helps inform our advocacy at the state level, plus I get to meet a wonderful community of fellow environmental advocates from around the country!

– Katharine Lange, Policy Director, Massachusetts Rivers Alliance

A Powerful and Inclusive Movement Working Together for Abundant Clean Water for All People and Nature to Thrive

A critical mass of advocates who are equipped, connected, and united in the fight for strong, equitable water laws and policies is critical to ensure access to safe drinking water and healthy, resilient rivers and communities at the local, state, and federal levels. This movement is essential to holding decision makers at all levels accountable for protecting public health and lifting up community voices, especially those that have been marginalized, to ensure our waters are safeguarded in ways that equitably protect all people.

At River Network, we show up to this movement by developing tools and resources, offering training, and creating opportunities for peer-to-peer sharing on advocacy topics the Network tells us they need to tackle the local, state, and national water policy issues that are a priority for their communities. At the same time, we work alongside our partners to advocate for federal policy change that will ensure all people and communities have access to safe drinking water and healthy and resilient rivers and communities.

River Network’s vision is a powerful and inclusive movement that ensures abundant clean water for all people and nature to thrive. If you are not yet part of this movement, or want to get involved in new ways, we wholeheartedly invite you to explore the coalitions and tools outlined above and join us.

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