On September 25, 2023, the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN) hosted a learning session entitled, Resilience Hubs as Community Superheroes of Climate Preparedness and Disaster Recovery. This blog post is a follow-up to the session to share resources and address some of the questions that were posed in the chat during the session.
This interview was conducted by Hannah Mico on May 5, 2023 and re-blogged from River Network’s Meet Your Network page. Learn more about the Grand River Revitalization Project and the Grand Rapids Urban Waters Federal Partnership.
Among the various types of green infrastructure that can help combat extreme heat and flooding, trees stand out as one of the most powerful tools for climate adaptation. Urban trees sequester carbon and filter the air, and when set up to thrive, their canopy shades sidewalks from the sun, prevents homes from absorbing heat, blocks wind during storms, and absorbs rainwater to reduce flooding.
In this 6-part series, we will highlight a variety of strategies that community-based organizations can use to help their communities anticipate, prepare for and respond to climate risks such as flooding, coastal storms and drought, with a focus on protecting community members who are most vulnerable to climate threats.
“We know that so many communities across the nation have the solutions to the environmental challenges they face. Unfortunately, many have lacked access or faced barriers when it comes to the crucial federal resources needed to deliver these solutions,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Today we’re taking another step to break down these barriers. Establishing these Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers across the nation will ensure all communities can access benefits from the President’s historic economic plan, which includes groundbreaking investments in clean air, clean water, and our clean energy future.”
Recorded on February 14th, 2023, Renée Mazurek, Resilient Communities Manager for River Network and team member of the Urban Waters Learning Network, interviews Maria De Jesus, the Housing Justice Organizer for Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC), and a member of the Urban Waters Learning Network Equitable Development and Anti-Displacement Collaborative.
The Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN) and its members are happy to see this work continue. “It’s wonderful to have the recognition of what the country should be doing.” – Gloria McNair, Groundwork Jacksonville. We see that the executive orders relate to the work that the UWLN has been doing for years, particularly with the UWLN Equitable Development and Anti-Displacement Collaborative.
On December 8, 2022, the UWLN Equitable Development and Anti-Displacement Collaborative hosted a learning session about the intersections of environmental justice and equitable development. This blog post is a follow-up to the session addressing questions from the session.
Araceli Eikenberry-Mancilla—Program Assistant for PCS—is a connector, educator, and creator in the Plaster Creek Watershed. In her second year as Program Assistant, Araceli continues her work inviting residents and other community stakeholders into a deeper understanding of their place in the larger story of Plaster Creek.
The Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN) hosted the 10th Annual Urban Waters Learning Forum (UWLF) on Saturday, June 4, 2022 at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC as a precursor to River Network’s River Rally conference. As in years’ past, the Learning Forum included a morning intensive workshop and an afternoon networking event.
Brenda Brinkhous-Hatch has been planning and facilitating youth development opportunities throughout her career and continues on that path in her current role as Green Team Coordinator for Groundwork Northeast Revitalization Group (NRG).
Paulina López is a volunteer, organizer, advocate, and mother of three boys. Originally from Ecuador, she has made Seattle her home for 19 years. Presently, she is the Executive Director for the Duwamish River Community Coalition (DRCC), advocating for communities to have a voice in complex decision-making processes. Paulina has over 20 years of experience working to advance civil rights, social justice, equity, education, and diversity.
Through the years, the UWLN meeting has turned into a Learning Forum with both morning and afternoon opportunities for the network to connect with upwards of 100 urban waters members. Also added to the forum in 2017, EPA supports signature and expert award winners from the network who are recognized during the learning forum and supported to attend River Rally.
In conjunction with River Network’s annual River Rally conference, the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN) hosts an Urban Waters Learning Forum, a networking and training event for UWLN members. For the second year in a row, River Rally transformed into … Continued
We’ve compiled some highlights from the program: workshops presented by Urban Waters Learning Network members, others of particular interest to those who work in cities, and a few here and there that are more broadly relevant to our work, encouraging us to push past our borders and city walls.
Daniel Joseph Wiley—a lifelong resident of Newark, NJ—works on housing policy with the Ironbound Community Corporation as the Housing Justice Program and Policy Manager, advocating for both housing and environmental justice in the East Ward of the city where rapid riverfront development threatens affordable housing.
Our congratulations to the 2021 Urban Waters Learning Network awardees! These leaders have been chosen for recognition by the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN), a partnership of the national nonprofits River Network and Groundwork USA. The Urban Waters Learning Network … Continued
Over the years, the Urban Waters Learning Network has curated and produced resources and tools to help organizations advance their practices in racial equity, environmental justice, and equitable development.
The Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) announced selections for the State Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement (SEJCA) and Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Programs.
Groundwork Trusts work at the intersection of the environment, equity, and civic engagement by making tangible improvements to the natural and built environments, mainly in underserved and environmental justice communities. River Rally provides Trusts with a powerful opportunity to convene and learn from each other, take advantage of professional development opportunities, and develop contacts with a wide variety of other organizations.
As the nation faces not only a global pandemic but also a long-overdue reckoning with systems of racial oppression, the urban waters movement is not removed from either. While the intentions of wanting to help vulnerable communities become more resilient … Continued
Following the decision to move this year’s River Rally to a virtual event rather than cancelling it altogether, River Network staff and board, organizational partners, conference presenters and sponsors instead became a model for resilience under challenging circumstances. Determined to … Continued
At the Urban Waters Learning Network, there has never been a more critical time to look for what lessons can be learned, explore how we can become more adaptable, increase access for the communities where we work, and find support for communities who are constantly innovating on the frontlines of disaster.
Cover photo from Heal the Bay water quality monitoring program. This post is also available on the River Network website blog. We at the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN) and River Network know that many of our members who do … Continued
Our congratulations to the 2020 Urban Waters Learning Network awardees! These four leaders have been chosen for recognition by the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN), a partnership of the national nonprofits River Network and Groundwork USA. The Urban Waters Learning Network Awards, sponsored by the US EPA, celebrate significant achievements of individuals who have improved urban waterways and revitalized the neighborhoods around them.
Carrie Merson is the Education and Engagement Specialist at the San Antonio River Authority. She has had one foot in the education field and one foot in the wildlife sciences field for over 20 years. Her role at the San … Continued
Groundwork Denver youth used the curriculum to identify and discuss a range of local environmental justice issues, including housing instability, water quality, food deserts, outdoor inaccessibility for youth, and pedestrian safety. Ultimately, they chose to work together to address the inaccessibility issue, and developed an outdoor recreational program for area youth.
Now that it’s again time to consider our past and future, we find ourselves inspired and re-energized by what our members have accomplished on behalf of America’s urban waters and communities. We look forward to continuing to provide spaces, places and means to connect our members as they innovate solutions in these areas and others.
In 2019, Delegates met in Austin, TX to attend One Water Summit 2019. The Summit, hosted annually by the U.S. Water Alliance, provides a space where people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines can work together toward a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to water.
As urban practitioners and leaders gain seats at more tables, they are helping to change the conversation within the larger environmental movement, elevating the role of city spaces and urban communities and teaching others how to better involve people in environmental problems.
Just as the river was the driver of Lawrence’s growth in the past, it remains that way today and will be in the future. Both the Spicket and Shawsheen Rivers meet the Merrimack in Lawrence, and both of these waterways were the basis for an expansion of greenways and networks of trails in the area—these trails connect people to jobs, schools, regional transportation, open spaces, and recreational opportunities.
What challenges and opportunities arise where the water meets the land? For many years, cities like Lawrence turned their backs on their waterfronts, as industrial facilities choked off public access. These sites historically served as engines of both prosperity and pollution. When they finally closed, the wealth left the community, but the contamination remained.
A recent NPR article shared insight that the vast majority of US parents want their children to be taught about climate change in school, even if most schools are not tackling the issue in their coursework. This is why groups like the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI) are so important, as they provide tools to aid informal science education centers in conducting these pivotal discussions.
Rather than societal, the workshop focused on personal, interpersonal, and organizational racial equity. Without providing specific answers to questions raised throughout, the workshop was designed to have people think about how they can create actions in their own communities to foster change.
The various Groundwork Trusts comprise a network of community-based nonprofits. They work at the intersection of the environment, equity, and civic engagement by making tangible improvements to the natural and built environment, mainly in underserved and environmental justice communities.
Learn where your water comes from, how it’s treated, stored and distributed, and what policies and practices need to be in place to ensure that people have access to clean drinking water now and in the future.
The impacts of Living Cully’s work reflect the recurring theme that strong partnerships and effective community engagement are key strategies to addressing the impacts of gentrification and anti-displacement – a theme I’ve uncovered again and again during my research.
During the morning and afternoon of Friday, June 21st, the Urban Waters Learning Network—that’s us—will host the Learning Forum, which is an opportunity for Learning Network members to meet fellow Urban Waters peers and engage in in-depth discussions on audience-generated topics.
This year, we are digging deeper into a topic that has been a concern of UWLN members for years: the gentrification and displacement of people that we see taking place in our urban communities, typically following efforts to revitalize and reinvest in the places we call home. This reinvestment can come in the form of the projects we pursue as part of our urban waters work.
Here at the Learning Network we’ve been working hard to keep up with all the great work you’ve been doing. In 2019, we are going to expand on services we offer now, and introduce new collaborative work on themes that bubbled to the top of conversations throughout 2018.
The program started in 2011 as an interdisciplinary, collaborative effort, connecting federal agencies with local communities to “transform their local urban waters into treasured centerpieces for community revitalization.”
EJCPS supports local organizations in their efforts to develop and implement community-driven solutions that address environmental and public health disparities in minority, low-income, tribal and indigenous populations.
As a network of grassroots organizations, Groundwork USA is deeply involved in environmental justice, both at the community and national levels. As an environmental organization that centers people and the places where they live, work, and play, we are continuing to develop educational tools and resources to aid other organizations in advancing their environmental justice work.
To put it in my own words: One Water describes a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to water. It has to do with understanding the many different ways in which water is a necessary and vital part of our physical and cultural lives—and finding ways to work together to make clean water available to everyone as a basic human right.
Resilient DC is launching the second phase of its efforts to write a Resilience Strategy under the 100 Resilient Cities framework. Many members of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership are participating in its various working groups, including the only geographically-specific working group focused on the Anacostia River corridor.
Every year, Groundwork USA attends River Rally and, as a partner and organizer of the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN), offers scholarships to Groundwork Trusts and other organizations with urban waters programs so they can benefit from all that River Rally has to offer.
Much of the world’s population lives in coastal regions that are vulnerable to rising sea level and storm events. After the impactful 2017 hurricane season, many urban waters practitioners are asking: How do communities effectively respond to devastating storms? And, … Continued
Every year, people from around the country and from every sector—academics, inventors and innovators, advocates, public servants, and general enthusiasts—attend River Network’s conference, called River Rally. Aside from being fun—with abundant nosh, beverages, outdoor field trips, and live entertainment—it is a veritable professional development powerhouse, with lots of opportunities to network with peers, learn about new tools and approaches, and connect with mentors.
Since 2007, the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) has partnered with community members, local jurisdictions, non-profits and businesses to prevent litter through a community-based social marketing campaign…
Through the Groundwork program, the students become stewards in their communities, reconnecting with nature and learning new aspects of themselves. To truly understand one’s place in this world and in nature is to experience it firsthand — to go outside and watch the sunset and see the mountain views. But if you can’t do that because you don’t have access or don’t know how, seeing it through a photograph is the next best thing. And viewing someone familiar who you can relate to, being a part of nature, connects you to nature as well.
Growing up in Savannah, GA, I always felt a strong tie to water. There was the Savannah River I would see when I would walk down River Street, the many bike rides to the marsh close to my house, and the countless trips to the beach for fun and with my school. These experiences created the foundation for me to pursue a career in water management. With each additional experience, I gained a greater appreciation for what was happening around me – much like a river’s flow increases with each tributary. Such powerful experiences can shape, not only who you are as a person, but who you become. They can shape how water resources are managed and conserved.
It’s no secret that infrastructure—including electric grids, fossil fuel pipelines, public transportation lines, bridges, railways, and roads—are in a rapid state of decline in the U.S., and that there is not nearly enough money allocated to their repair and maintenance. Central to that problem and probably the most alarming aspect of it is the fact that water infrastructure systems—the pipes that bring us treated water and the sewer lines that take waste water away—are in various states of disrepair all around the country.
As a community-based grassroots organization, We The People of Detroit (WPD) aims to inform, educate, and empower Detroit residents on imperative issues surrounding civil rights, land, water, education, and the democratic process. WPD has worked tenaciously with its network of volunteers to provide water to Detroit residents and advocate for a sustainable water future.
Presented by the U.S. Water Alliance, the One Water Summit is a conference that seeks to bring people from all over the country, from a variety of professions, to exchange knowledge and develop strategies for achieving “a sustainable water future for all” — that is, a future where everyone has access to sufficient quantities of clean water and where water management practices are tied to healthy and thriving ecosystems, communities, and economies.
“You’re not only the future, you’re also the today,” Catherine Cushway tells her students.
I met Catherine and her ninth grade class from C.A. Frost Environmental Science Middle High School at Teen Rally. River Network hosted its first Teen Rally as part of their annual River Rally conference in Grand Rapids, MI. C.A. Frost students and Upward Bound students networked with professionals, toured the Grand River, and engaged in stewardship projects at Calvin College.
Once, on a road trip with friends from New York to California, I kept a list of every river and stream we crossed, starting with the Hudson.
After the Delaware and the Susquehanna, we found ourselves crossing the Cowpasture River and Salt Sulphur Springs, Clinch River and Bog Swan Creek, Poor Hollow, Rio Puerco, Cottonwood Wash and Moore Gulch. Though I probably dozed off and missed a few, and many remained unidentified by signs, by the end of the trip there were 113 on my list.
You may have heard the terms point and nonpoint source pollution. To demystify these terms a bit, a point source is a known source of pollutants, such as a factory or a sewer treatment plant. Nonpoint sources are everything else: lawns, roofs, construction sites, driveways, and roads. Pollution from these sources can take a variety of forms, including mud, bacteria, fertilizers, and toxic waste like oil and paint. Stormwater collects these pollutants from multiple sources, then introduces them directly into our streams, rivers, and lakes.
The average American produces a little over four pounds of trash each day. Even though many of us recycle, the amount of waste we produce is still higher than it was in the sixties. Together, Americans produce 220 million tons of waste annually, 55% of which end up in landfills (unless you live in San Francisco, which has managed to divert 80% of its collective trash to recycling and composting programs, and is well on its way toward the end goal of producing “zero waste” as a city). And while businesses, schools, and hospitals produce a lot of trash as well, 65% of the trash found in today’s landfills is produced by individual households.
DRCC/TAG takes the time and energy to build relationships, listen to the communities’ interests and needs, and collaborate with them to develop action plans that focus on empowering their voices and actions. This, in part, has enabled DRCC/TAG to leverage a $60,000 EPA Urban Waters Small Grant into close to $1.5 million invested in Duwamish Valley community priorities.
At scales ranging from the neighborhood and city to the watershed and basin, communities around the country are finding ways to break down silos in water management to become more sustainable and to more equitably maximize benefits across their community and watershed. River Network is hosting a series of webinars with support from the Urban Waters Learning Network and the Pisces Foundation on Integrated Water Management, which cover multiple examples of how these approaches are taking root across the country.
“Diversity and Inclusiveness” represents a growing movement, consisting of people from all walks of life, who recognize that we need representation from a larger variety of people, especially those who grew up experiencing the worst effects of environmental problems. This includes people of color, and people from low income backgrounds: those who come from rural and urban communities that have the least political representation, who deal every day with hazards related to contaminated homes, workplaces, playgrounds, and schools, and who are on the front lines of big issues like climate change.
It really was a “Watershed Awakening”…the growing awareness and eventual decision made by Calvin College to turn its attention to Plaster Creek, the impaired creek that drains the watershed in which the college is situated in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Back in 2002, Calvin College began involving students in service-learning activities that evolved into today’s Plaster Creek Stewards, a highly successful collaboration of college faculty and students, urban residents, local churches and schools, and community partners working to restore the health and beauty of our 58 square mile watershed.