Drinking Water Guide – In Spanish!
My work on water has always been inspired by the intersection of water and people – conservation and community. The catalyst for joining the water movement was my experience living in Moncion, Dominican Republic in the mid-1990s and witnessing the direct impact of a dam that caused serious flooding in 13 rural communities, changing the course of the Mao River and people’s lives simultaneously – creating inequitable and lasting damage. What I’ve learned since, in my now decades of experience, is that change is most often local, and we must meet people and communities where they are to mobilize them to action. This is especially important for creating the just and equitable change we wish to see in the world.
Drinking water touches all of us, and yet many of us take it for granted that we can turn on our faucet and expect the water to be there, to be clean and safe, and also affordable to cover our basic needs. Drinking water crises in the Great Lakes – including elevated lead levels in Flint, algal outbreaks in Toledo, water shutoffs in Detroit, and toxic fluorinated chemicals throughout the region – cut to the heart of that belief and made us all think more deeply. Issues of access, safety and affordability have emerged across the country from West Virginia to California’s Central Valley.
We can’t talk about drinking water without talking about equity. Unfortunately, communities across the country – primarily low-income, communities of color – struggle to afford their water, or are faced with concerns over contamination from toxins, like lead and PFAS, or both. Drinking water violations are more likely to occur in places where residents are people of color and access and availability also vary by race and class. That’s why we developed our Drinking Water Guide through a lens of equity and with a specific section dedicated to discussing the impact of drinking water on equitable outcomes.
In many ways, equity means access. To increase the reach and relevance of our Drinking Water Guide, we worked with staff from Corazón Latino on a Spanish language translation of our guide. Corazón Latino works toward the common good by partnering with organizations to build culturally relevant campaigns to inform, empower, and mobilize diverse communities around environmental, conservation, education, civic engagement, social justice, and health issues through strategic communications and grassroots mobilization tools. This version of our Guide has been adapted to reach the Latinx community with both culturally relevant language and aesthetic – with adapted images and examples to resonate with the community and equip them with the tools needed to work toward change in their very own communities.
Our drinking water systems are fundamental to our health, economy, and well-being, and water systems continue to invest billions of dollars annually, mostly at the local level, in an effort to keep our water safe to drink, many of them with great success despite daunting challenges. These challenges are many and include: aging infrastructure, active and legacy resource contamination, climate change, mismanagement, a convoluted regulatory framework, and a shortage of funding. Better understanding these issues is part of the solution to advocating for and achieving clean, safe and affordable drinking water for all. With the support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, River Network developed our Drinking Water Guide to serve as a resource for groups seeking to engage on drinking water safety, sustainability and access at the local, state or national level.
We were supported by ERG and Jumana Vasi and guided by a diverse, Great Lakes-based Advisory Group,* as well as input from watershed and water advocacy groups and environmental justice and community-based organizations from around the country through participation in a series of peer calls and individual outreach. The Guide is divided into the following sections to reflect the issues and concerns raised by all of this feedback:
- Where does our drinking water come from and how can we protect it?
- What does my drinking water system do?
- What frameworks are in place to ensure our water is safe to drink?
- What does drinking water cost and what is my water bill paying for?
- How will climate change affect my water and what can we do about it?
- How can I support community advocacy and engagement on drinking water issues?
Also included are stories of amazing people and strong groups already working for solutions in their communities and making change happen where it’s needed as well as links to many excellent resources created by community, industry, and governmental organizations. You can read and download the Spanish Language Drinking Water Guide here.
*Drinking Water Guide Advisory Group Members:
James Clift, Michigan Environmental Council
Sheyda Esnaashari, Alliance for the Great Lakes
Irene Folstrom, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Zoe Roller, US Water Alliance
Monica Lewis-Patrick, We the People of Detroit
Oluwole McFoy, Buffalo Water
Justin Nickels, Mayor, City of Manitowoc, WI
Juani Olivares, Genesee County Hispanic and Latino Collaborative
David Reckhow, University of Massachusetts
Laura Rubin, Huron River Watershed Council
Oday Salim, National Wildlife Federation
Lynn Thorp, Clean Water Action