Federal Budget Toolkit: Federal Funding for Clean and Ample Water

River Network developed this Federal Budget Toolkit to support communities and watershed groups in fighting back against proposed federal budget cuts that will harm local waterways. The toolkit provides information and resources for assessing the impacts in your state and effectively communicating with decision makers and the media about the impacts of such cuts. Resources include model action alerts, social media materials and sample stories that do a great job of communicating the value of federal investment and the true impacts of the proposed budget cuts.

Funding for essential programs that safeguard our environment and our drinking water are at risk from proposed budget cuts. The President’s proposed budget for FY2019 (which begins October 1, 2018) proposes many drastic cuts to programs that protect our water, land, and air. These cuts would have devastating impacts on the ability of state agencies to do their work– more than half of all state environmental agencies get one quarter of their funding from the federal government. Other agencies with important programs affecting our waterways, like the US Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have also been targeted for cuts. These agencies and many others are also at risk of losing their scientific research funding.

Fortunately, the collective efforts of river and conservation groups around the country are making a big difference and our voices are being heard. In March 2018, Congress passed and the President signed a FY 2018 budget bill that increased funding for EPA beyond levels for fiscal year 2017. Also, a number of anti-environmental riders that had been added to the budget bill were not included in the final bill.

Important wins included additional funding for Superfund cleanups, Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act grants, and programs to address lead in drinking water. The bill also funded signature geographic programs focused on the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, and the Delaware River, as well as support for state and tribal water quality programs, at the same levels as fiscal year 2017. The bill also included increased funding for the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Fortunately, anti-environment policy riders were mostly kept out thanks to efforts demanding a “clean budget,” including a proposed rider that would have exempted the Administration’s efforts to repeal the Clean Water Rule from public input requirements.

Now that the FY2018 spending package has been signed we must continue the momentum. The bill passed in March 2018 only funds the government through September 2018. The President’s FY19 budget again proposes to slash the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 34% and make drastic cuts to programs to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, Great Lakes and other important waters.  Also on the chopping block are programs for beach protectionnonpoint source funding, and Water Sense, among others. However, while the President gets to propose a budget, Congress actually makes the final budget decisions.

We need to thank our members of Congress for the FY2018 funding levels and for keeping most anti-environmental riders out, continue to demonstrate the importance of these programs, and ask for adequate funding in next fiscal year’s budget, too.

We’re ready to continue working with you, our other partners, and the network of groups protecting water resources across this country—from the smallest creeks to Lake Superior—to ensure Congress continues to hear us and do what’s right for current and future generations.

The traditional federal budget process starts with the President’s budget request, which serves as a signal to Congress of the Administration’s taxing and spending priorities. It is up to Congress to ultimately pass a federal budget, known as the Congressional Budget Resolution. Following adoption of the resolution, Congress considers annual appropriations bills that fund various programs.  In recent years, many spending bills have been passed by a “Continuing Resolution,” which essentially extends the budget from the previous year as a stop-gap measure when agreement about changes to the budget cannot be reached.

For an excellent overview of the federal budget process and what happens when the parties cannot agree, see the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Introduction to the Federal Budget or this infographic.

Although the final Congressionally-approved budget is not expected to be as drastic as what the Trump Administration has proposed, it is critical that Congress hear from you about the importance of the EPA and the various agencies and programs that protect our environment and our lives. There is no guarantee that programs will not be eliminated. We need to highlight the value federal investments bring to our communities and waterways. Doing so also has the benefit of raising these issues and signaling that there is broad opposition to the many ongoing attempts to rollback critical environmental safeguards.

Our voices on funding issues are critically important, and decision makers need to hear how important federal programs and agencies are to our communities and watersheds. Together, we need to tell our senators and representatives and the Trump Administration that we oppose the dangerous budget cuts that are being proposed.

Go to our 3-Step Guide that outlines:

  1. Finding a key local issue to focus on
  2. How to assess the impacts budget cuts will have in your community and/or watershed
  3. How to tell – and amplify – your story

Webinar: Using Communications to Put a Face on the Federal Budget Cuts (recording)

Liz Banse from Resource Media reviews how the media has covered the proposed federal budget cuts to date and the opportunities this presents in getting our message out. She also gives advice on persuasive messaging and how to tell effective stories. Anna Brunner and Jordan Lubetkin with the Healing Our Waters Coalition also share how they’ve documented the benefits of federal investment and successfully communicated those benefits to protect investments in the Great Lakes.

Resource Media:

Clean Water for All Campaign:

Environmental Integrity Project:

Save EPA (retired and former EPA employees):

Environmental Protection Network (volunteers with backgrounds in environmental programs at the federal, state and local levels:

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership:

Environmental Council of States:

National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA):

Association of Clean Water Administrators (ACWA):

Center for American Progress:

Environmental Defense Fund:


Environment America Research and Policy Center:


Resource Materials