Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund 2019 Annual Report

September 29, 2020

2019 brought an increase in the pace and severity of attacks on our water — Dirty Water rollbacks that would undermine fundamental protections for our water and our health. Thanks to big changes in leadership in the U.S. House, legislative assaults in Congress have mostly abated. Thanks to the support and active involvement of our members, donors and volunteer clean water activists around the country, we’ve been able to hold the line against the worst of these attacks. We launched successful legal challenges to keep bad rules from going into effect. We mobilized more than 100,000 people in campaigns to expose and delay administrative and executive actions that would weaken protections we rely on to stop pollution and keep our water clean, including the water we drink — all the while continuing to grow the clean water movement in key states and communities.

Throughout 2019, our programs defended essential environmental and health protections, while strengthening the grassroots base of people who care about our water and want to see it protected — now and for future generations. We continue to lay the groundwork to reverse the worst of the extreme cuts and rollbacks advanced by polluters and their allies in government. Together, we can restore our nation’s historic commitment to fishable, swimmable, drinkable water.

Our priorities remain:

  • Protecting Water and Health
  • Promoting clean water and fighting pollution, from watershed to water tap.
  • Building a Clean Water–Clean Energy Future
  • Supporting clean energy solutions to create jobs and economic growth, fight climate-changing pollution and protect our water.
  • Healthy Families and Communities
  • Advancing “upstream” solutions. Protecting people — especially children — from toxic harm. Reducing and preventing waste and pollution at the source.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund operate programs nationally, regionally and locally, from a network of 19 offices around the country. We have members and supporters in all 50 states. To learn more about state and regional programs visit this page.

Here’s some of what we’ve been doing
to deliver real, positive impact for our water

Education & Engagement: Our simple, persuasive, fact-based communications help people understand what’s at stake, how it may affect them, and how they can get involved. We reached more than one million households this year, door-to-door, by phone, by mail and, increasingly, online. Together, the actions we’ve taken bolstered the record of overwhelming public support for clean water, brought new people to this unifying cause, and built the grassroots people power needed to win for our water.

Organizing: We continued to build local leadership, strengthen and support organizations and communities impacted by pollution and injustice, and foster collaboration to change policies and protect clean water. We increased engagement and alignment between community groups, businesses, water utilities, public health officials and others with a shared stake in clean water.

Policy Leadership, Research & Reporting: Clean Water Action is committed to solutions grounded in communities’ real world needs and experiences. Our 2019 reports, white papers and calls-to-action analyzed government and industry actions, identified threats and opportunities, and made this information accessible to the public. We documented loopholes and enforcement failures that increased water and health risks from oil and gas development. We fought to strengthen federal rules and funding to reduce lead in drinking water. We advanced innovative state and local policies on water, waste, toxics and climate justice.

Accountability: People concerned about our water need information on industry threats and public officials’ actions so they can get involved as citizens and voters. Clean Water Action consistently delivered, serving as a trusted resource, and as an antidote to polluters’ insider access, misinformation and outsized political spending.

Protecting Water and Health

Clean Water Action fought to maintain strong, effective water protections, mobilized to hold the line against drastic cuts and rollbacks that would undermine laws keeping pollution out of our water, including the water we drink. We challenged the administration’s actions in court, and together with allies, expanded the number of states protected by the Clean Water Rule and strengthened limits on power plants’ toxic water pollution, among other legal wins.

We opposed a new Clean Water Act loophole that would exempt pollution entering our water via underground dumping, fought the Dirty Water Rule to limit federal protections for streams, wetlands and drinking water, pushed for toxic pollution spill prevention, campaigned to protect state and tribal authority to challenge pipelines and other dirty infrastructure, defended limits on toxic coal ash dumping and other coal-power pollution, and exposed schemes that would increase sewage pollution.

Clean Water Action helped lead diverse coalitions, including the national Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative, Sourcewater Protection Collaborative, Clean Water for All Coalition, and others, and supported local and state initiatives to fight pollution and hold polluters accountable. We continued to make headway on longstanding challenges: sewage pollution and polluted storm water, green infrastructure solutions, toxic algal outbreaks and industrial agriculture pollution, and access to clean drinking water:

  • Passage of California’s $1.4 billion Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund, to bring clean water to 1 million underserved residents and their communities.
  • New statewide flood control funding in Texas that incorporates “natural infrastructure” solutions, and Austin’s “Water Forward” long-range plan, to conserve water and strengthen communities’ climate resiliency.
  • Helping Great Lakes communities defend against water withdrawals and leading ongoing campaigns to stop the dangerous Line 5 pipeline in Michigan.
  • Lead drinking water service line replacement projects in Malden, Somerville and Chelsea, Massachusetts and elsewhere around the country.

Building a Clean Water-Clean Energy Future

Climate, energy and clean water concerns are closely interconnected. Clean Water Action’s expertise and campaigning across these areas helped environmental and community allies hold the line on dirty energy projects, advance clean energy solutions and make the benefits of those solutions more available to all. Our oil and gas programs continued to address risks from drilling, fracking and destructive “enhanced recovery” techniques, pushing for tougher standards, and helping people organize to protect their water and health. While industry hyped its “carbon capture” techniques as climate “solutions,” Clean Water Action documented huge potential water impacts, questionable pollution reduction claims, and abuse of federal climate tax credits to subsidize additional fossil fuel extraction. Clean Water Action continued its support for local climate action and leadership, with an increasing emphasis on supporting communities of color already overburdened by pollution, advancing energy efficiency and renewables, and making sure voices of youth and people of color are heard:

  • Pushing for stronger clean energy targets and encouraging offshore wind, with breakthroughs, such as New Jersey’s increased climate targets (45 percent reduction by 2030), cancellation of the Meadowlands gas plant, and doubling of the state’s offshore wind commitments.
  • Leading New England coalitions advocating to integrate carbon pricing alongside other climate solutions.
  • Organizing against oil trains and other hazardous cargo in Baltimore.
  • Launching new air monitoring in California’s Kern County, with Lost Hills En Accion.
  • Tackling diesel and other longstanding port/transportation pollution in Newark, New Jersey

Healthy Families and Communities

Clean Water Action remained an active leader in campaign coalitions and networks focused on organizing consumers and moving state policies to prevent pollution and protect health, including the SAFER states network, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and the Mind the Store Campaign, which mobilizes consumers to demand improvements from major retail chains.

2019 also brought increased awareness and action on toxic PFAS chemicals in consumer products, food packaging, nonstick coatings and firefighting foams. Contamination near industrial plants and fire training sites has been detected in drinking water sources, and studies suggest PFAS pollutants may now be present in almost every American’s blood. Clean Water Action moved quickly to help communities respond, joined with community partners to press for accountability and “polluter pay” solutions and to promote stronger limits for PFAS chemicals in drinking water, drawing in part on policies we helped win in New Jersey.

Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund expanded ReThink Disposable programs to reach more communities in California, New Jersey, and New England, working with businesses and local governments to reduce single-use disposable trash. Clean Water Action also promoted state and local action on waste and toxics, including:

  • Boston’s hard-fought Zero Waste Plan that features living-wage guarantees for recycling workers.
  • State procurement policies in Connecticut to restrict PFAS in food packaging and to reduce foamware and plastic disposables.
  • Dozens of communities in Virginia, New Jersey, California and other states banning single-use plastic bags, drinking straws (except on request), foamware.
  • ReThink policies and practices in a single California community (Alameda) involved eighty businesses, eliminating 6.2 million single-use items, preventing 2.34 tons of waste, and saving $139,241 annually.
  • Organized more than 10,000 public comments on proposed standards for seven PFAS pollutants in Michigan, setting the stage for what would later become the nation’s most stringent limits.

Supporting Clean Water

Clean Water Action & Clean Water Fund work closely with businesses and foundations who support our programs with gifts, grants and partnership donations. Clean Water Fund also benefits from financial support it receives as a founding member of Earth Share and its affiliates, who organize employee giving campaigns for donations via payroll deduction (#10636 in the Combined Federal Campaign for military and government workers). For more on these partnerships, as well as matching gift and legacy giving opportunities, visit cleanwater.org/businesses.

We all live downstream.

Clean Water Action’s mission is to protect our environment, health, economic well-being and community quality of life. Clean Water Action organizes strong grassroots groups and coalitions, and campaigns to elect environmental candidates and to solve environmental and community problems.

Join Us! Together we’re making a difference for Clean Water:

  • Take action to protect drinking water and clean up polluted waterways;
  • Get health-harming toxics out of everyday products;
  • Protect our water from dirty energy threats — drilling and fracking for oil and gas, and power plant pollution;
  • Build a future of clean water and clean energy;
  • Keep our clean water laws strong and effective to protect water and health.

Protecting water and health, from watershed to water tap

Clean Water Fund’s programs reach and involve more than one million households  each year through outreach, education, organizing, advocacy and policy action at the local, state and national levels.

Together with Clean Water Action, Clean Water Fund supports the goal of fishable, swimmable, drinkable water for everyone.

Priority programs and strategies include:

  • Policies that Put Drinking Water First, from watershed to water tap;
  • Environmental health solutions that prevent waste and pollution  at the source;
  • Clean energy and climate solutions that create jobs and protect water.

Clean Water Fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose programs build on and complement those of Clean Water Action.

Clean Water Fund and Clean Water Action share some staffing and offices and collaborate on programs, including many described in this Annual Report.

Clean Water Fund’s involvement is limited to those activities appropriate to its 501(c)(3) tax status.

Region/State: