River Voices: February 2024

Welcome to the February 2024 edition of River Voices. This month we’re featuring member organization Milwaukee Water Commons. Learn about how they’re leveraging federal water infrastructure funding to create change in their communities and meet co-Executive Directors Brenda Coley and Kirsten Shead. Plus, River Rally 2024 registration is open! Register before we meet our cap!

Milwaukee Water Commons 2022 We are Water Event brings neighbors from around the city to the shore of Lake Michigan to celebrate their shared relationship with water. (Photo credit - Joe Brusky.)

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has global recognition as a water-centric city, however depending on where you live, your relationship with water may be entirely different. This month, dive deep with us into Milwaukee Water Commons’ water infrastructure funding story: a powerful example among many groups on the ground in their communities and states, ensuring Bipartisan Infrastructure Law water infrastructure dollars are spent equitably. Specifically, learn how they’re leveraging their state’s State Revolving Fund program to foster more equitable and just policies that change two dominant narratives: the narrative of segregation and injustice, and the narrative of water utilities and the communities.

Read the full piece on Milwaukee Water Commons and their inspiring advocacy.

We often talk about: what is the wraparound community benefit of these programs? And how is it changing that narrative of segregation in Milwaukee?”

-Joe Fitzgerald, Policy and Advocacy Manager with Milwaukee Water Commons


“Is it mission creep to be more intersectional in our environmentalism? Do we save the fish, or do we have clean drinking water? When I came in, that was the argument. Now, there is none… We must have safe drinking water, clean water, and affordable healthy water. All of this matters. That’s the intersectional part of it.”

Ayana Harscoet spoke with Co-Executive Directors of Milwaukee Water Commons, Brenda Coley and Kirsten Shead for this month’s interview. Listen or read to learn more about their intersectional work engaging and responding to their communities, from urban forestry to water recreation and beyond.

Meet Brenda and Kirsten.


Thanks to our generous supporters, River Network is able to provide financial assistance for more water, justice, and river advocates to attend River Rally! Support will range from partial to full registration support, with additional assistance for travel and lodging based on need.

Applicants will be asked to submit a $20 application fee when you apply for a scholarship or to volunteer at River Rally. If this fee is a barrier for you, please . If you do not receive a River Rally scholarship, this $20 fee will be refunded. 

Apply for a River Rally 2024 scholarship.

Learn about our federal funding support.

River Network’s second cohort-style hybrid training series on SRF Advocacy will launch on March 5. Interested? Apply to join the SRF series today!

This 9-week training series is an opportunity to take a deeper dive into River Network’s SRF Advocacy Toolkit. Through a mix of “synchronous” (online sessions with River Network staff, guest speakers, and other cohort members) and “asynchronous” (online sessions that you can complete on your own with engaging reading, videos, and interactive prompts) sessions, we’ll cover the basics of SRFs and generate advocacy strategies that focus on you/your organization’s priorities.

River Rally 2019 attendees. Photo by Benjamin Colon.
River Rally 2019 attendees. Photo by Benjamin Colon.

The 25th River Rally will be an exciting time for the network to gather on the banks of the Grand River in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Expect outstanding local field trips (walking, biking, kayaking, planting, hiking, sampling, science, and more!), stimulating sessions, local venues including the Blue Bridge and Ah-Nab-Awen Park, and opportunities to enjoy the riverfront with old and new friends from across the network. This year we have a registration cap, so don’t wait!

Explore the River Rally 2024 program and register for Rally today!

Mark President’s Day with the Clean Water Act Owner’s Manual

For President’s Day we’re highlighting President Jimmy Carter’s Foreword written for River Network’s Clean Water Act Owner’s Manual. In it, President Carter speaks to the importance of clean water, provides historical context of how the Act came to be, shares how the Act is designed to protect and restore our Nation’s waters, and highlights what still remains to be done: including a call to get involved using the Clean Water Act’s tools to protect your local waters.

His words in the Foreword are inspiring. We encourage you to visit (or re-visit) them this President’s Day and learn more about the Clean Water Act Owner’s Manual.

Addressing Emerging Contaminants in Source Water Using BIL Grants and Forgivable Loans

February 8 at 12p PT / 3p ET

Join the national Source Water Collaborative for an introduction to the large influx of BIL funding for ECs, learn about the ways BIL funding can support source water protection, and hear a case study highlighting how the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services accomplished their goals in tackling PFAS.

2024 Wild and Scenic River Training Series

Monthly, January through June

Join River Management Society for an immersive and collaborative training series that enhances your Wild and Scenic Rivers expertise! This series, designed for professionals engaged with WSRs, isn’t just about learning—it’s about fostering a community of practice. Dive into the world of Wild and Scenic Rivers, learning practical skills that streamline your work and elevate your contribution to protecting and enhancing these resources.

Register for the Wild & Scenic River Training Series.

RiversEdge West’s 2024 Riparian Restoration Conference

March 5-7, 2024

Registration is open for this conference, held at Colorado Mesa University, in Grand Junction, CO! The theme for their 2024 Riparian Restoration Conference is Restoration for the Future: Promoting resilience in our rivers and communities. The emphasis at this conference will be on building resilience in our rivers and riparian ecosystems, as well as the surrounding human communities.

Register for the 2024 Riparian Restoration Conference.

Key Principles of Collaborative Fundraising

March 6 at 12p PT / 3p ET

Join River Network for a 90-minute workshop on collaborative fundraising. Together, we’ll demystify multi-partner grant applications and learn ways to define roles, responsibilities, and expectations when collaborating for greater impact. We’ll cover prospect research, project management, budgeting, and the importance of building trust with partners. Case studies will offer real-life best practices and lessons learned for successful collaborative fundraising.

Register for Key Principles of Collaborative Fundraising.

What We’re Reading, Watching, and Listening To: Black History Month

  • How the Word Is Passed: Clint Smith’s powerful book “leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.” Smith is also one of Spring Point Partners’ “Learners in Residence.”
  • Freedom Hill: this documentary tells the environmental justice story of Princeville, NC, the first town incorporated by freed, formerly enslaved Africans in America, and how it is “gradually being washed away.”
  • “Land, Power, and Self-Determination with Naomi Davis and Anton Seals Jr.” – Episode 5 of the podcast People, Nature, Big Ideas looks at Self-Determination and the challenges around how communities and individuals are able to shape their economic, cultural, and social futures.
  • Pacific Institute’s “Water Conflict Chronology”: this database catalogs over 1,600 water conflicts from throughout world history, including during the US Civil War and present-day conflicts.
  • freshwater: this beautiful film by dream hampton is “a portrait of remembrance, of flooded Midwestern basements and maintaining connection in the wake of ongoing displacement, abandonment and climate catastrophe.”
  • The Unhidden Minute: this new series from James Edward Mills celebrates the untold stories of Black American history.