River Voices: November 2019

Welcome to the November 2019 edition of River Voices, with a focus on Latinx community engagement. Hear about Ixchel’s work fighting for clean drinking water in two western Chicago suburbs and meet network member Nayamin Martinez to read about her work in California’s Central Valley. Plus, our Drinking Water Guide is now available in Spanish!

Photo courtesy Peter Means, Virginia Tech
Photo courtesy Peter Means, Virginia Tech

The Illinois communities of Cicero and Berwyn are majority Latinx (90% and 63%, respectively) and face a long litany of environmental threats that compromise public health and erode residents’ quality of life, including high levels of lead in their drinking water supplies from lead service lines. They are also both the focus of Ixchel, a grassroots organization, and member of River Network’s Drinking Water Cohort, that cultivates “grassroots leaders to dismantle structural racism for racial equity in education and environmental justice and ensure access to equitable resources.” Ixchel has worked diligently to keep the issue of lead in the forefront, despite the many other challenges these communities face. Read Ixchel’s story, strategies, and recent successes.

“It is extremely difficult to keep [lead] front and center, but we continue to talk about it as a quality of life issue. The majority of nonprofits that work in the community provide direct services… The issue of organizing in the sense of creating racial equity is not something community members are used to.”

-Delia Barajas, Founding Director, Ixchel

Meet Diana Toledo, River Network’s Leadership Development Director. Diana is responsible for developing and delivering training and consulting services so that leaders, organizations, and coalitions working for freshwater protection are strong, effective, and results-oriented. Read more about Diana’s work.
Rain barrel group

Project Rain Barrel helps communities and homeowners reduce their water footprints by providing FREE materials, support, and promotion for hosting educational rain barrel-making workshops. Materials are limited and distributed through a competitive application process. The current application deadline is November 15th, 2019. Apply here.


“What we try to do is not only criticize and call out the wrong that is happening, but also come up with solutions.” Meet Nayamin Martinez, director at the Central California Environmental Justice Network. Hear about her work addressing water and environmental justice issues in California’s Central Valley. Meet Nayamin.

Drinking Water Guide – Now Available In Spanish!

We developed our Drinking Water Guide through a lens of equity, and in many ways, equity means access.

To increase the reach and relevance of our Drinking Water Guide, as well as its accessibility, we worked with staff from Corazón Latino on a Spanish language translation of the Guide. This version has been adapted to reach the Latinx community with both culturally relevant language and aesthetic – with adapted images and examples to resonate with communities and equip them with the tools needed to work toward local change. Read more (English; Español) and download the Spanish language Guide here.

Share Your Clean Water Act Training Stories


Join us in reflecting on River Network’s decades of dedication to the Clean Water Act! How has our CWA work inspired you? What have you learned from our staff who have focused on the CWA in different ways (Gayle Killam, Don Elder, Merritt Frey, Katherine Baer, Steve Dickens, Geoff Dates, or Gaby Stocks)? What have you done with what you’ve learned? Who have you gone on to train or inspire and what have their impacts looked like? Email your stories to media@rivernetwork.org – we’ll include them in the January issue of River Voices to inspire others across the network.


River Network recently supported the efforts of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance to profile examples of projects that were a win-win for conservation and agriculture. We will produce a series of three videos telling the stories of these projects from the perspective of the agricultural stakeholders. Our goal is to highlight how conservation projects can improve the bottom line for both labor and money for agricultural producers.

Watch the first video on Left Hand Creek.

Events & Learning Opportunities

River Network Webinar Series: The What, Who, and How of Nonprofit Advocacy Work

If you’ve heard the old adage “nonprofits cannot participate in lobbying,” this series is for you! Featuring one webinar short and two full-length, live webinars, you’ll learn how 501(c)(3)s can get involved in advocacy work, policies and procedures to build strength and protect your org, and the finer points of campaign planning.

Watch now: Advocacy 101 – Yes You Can! Advocacy Basics for Beginners
Watch now: Advocacy 102 – Boards + Advocacy = A Winning Strategy
Register: Advocacy 103 – Planning + Resources = An Effective Campaign (11/12, 1pm EST)

Hosted by Brenna Goggin, River Network’s Mid-Atlantic Leadership Development Manager

Dev. Academy for Communities – How Developers Make Money

November 8th 1:00–3:00 pm ET.
Why does it cost so much? This webinar focuses on what goes into a real estate development project and how it is financed. We will review a proforma and discuss sources of capital, uses of funds, and expectations for profit. We will introduce how environmental issues impact the finance process and how they are addressed. The objective is to develop an understanding of what it takes to pay for a development project and what investors need to provide funds for redevelopment.

Free EPA webinar. Register.

Leadership, Organizing and Action: Leading Change

Application deadline December 10.
Effective organizing requires an understanding of how to identify, recruit and develop leadership, build community around that leadership and harness the power from the resources of that community. Taught by Marshall Ganz, Leadership, Organizing and Action: Leading Change is an online executive program designed to help you learn how to organize communities that can mobilize power to make change. Sessions will be held February 10, 2020 – May 25, 2020.

Apply here.

Member News and Tips

Are you planning, designing, or implementing on-the-ground restoration projects that will restore river flows and/or recharge ground water? Would you like the opportunity to share your projects with businesses who may be interested in providing support for your projects? If the answer is “Yes!” be sure to check out the Business for Water Stewardship Project Bank, an opportunity for paid members of River Network to use a national platform to attract funding.

We’re Hiring! (And So Are Network Members)

River Network is looking for a Community Organizing Associate, based in the Great Lakes, and a Philanthropy Manager, based in Colorado. Check out our job board for these and the latest water-stewardship career opportunities from member organizations.

Have an open position to post? Submit here.

Up to $100k Available Through Reclamation WaterSMART

The Bureau of Reclamation has released a grant funding opportunity for communities to establish a new watershed group, expand an existing group, or complete restoration planning efforts. Up to $100k is available per group. Application deadline: 11/13.

Learn more and apply.

$15 Million in EPA Grant Funding for Rural and Small Water Systems

The available funding will support nonprofits in providing training and technical assistance to small public drinking water and wastewater systems, as well as private well owners, to achieve and maintain compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Application deadline: 11/14.

Learn more and apply.

What We’re Reading

Blue Mind – Why are we drawn to lakes, rivers, oceans, and pools each summer? Why does being near water set our minds and bodies at ease? In Blue Mind, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols revolutionizes how we think about these questions, revealing the remarkable truth about the benefits of being in, on, under, or simply near water. Many of our staff recommend this read, and it inspired Emerging Leader Kevin Jeffery as well!

Tools for Grassroots Activists – All the best wisdom and advice from 20 years of the Patagonia Tools Conference in one place! River Network’s Carly Schmidt attended the conference this September and recommends this resource for any organization hoping to hone core skills for success in the environmental movement.

One Month Until #GivingTuesday!

On December 3, we invite you to support a strong network to mark #GivingTuesday. 80% of every dollar invested with River Network supports our programs and backbone connectivity for the nationwide network of water protectors. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for #GivingTuesday or choose to make a donation today!