Embedded in first amendment of the U.S. Constitution is the right of every American to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” This lofty principle serves as a foundation for the fact that our government is responsive to the beliefs and wills of the people they are elected to represent. As critical entities in the communities you serve and front-line protectors of public health and the environment for thousands (in some cases millions) of constituents, clean water utilities are in a very unique position to influence elected leaders.
Given new political dynamics unfolding at the national level and the growing interest of Congress in addressing critical water issues, now is the time to be strengthening existing congressional relationships and creating new ones. As highly-regulated entities, clean water agencies have a responsibility to their ratepayers to engage with members of Congress. In-person meetings with Members of Congress and their staff can go a long way in opening a dialogue on the future clean water sector and fostering champions to advance the needs and concerns of the utility community.
As part of the Utility of the Future mindset, utilities are beginning to view their role and engagement with their communities in a more expansive, holistic way. As part of this mission, why not broaden this definition to include more direct advocacy work? By making your voice heard on Capitol Hill, you can contribute to meaningful policy changes that impact your utility’s day-to-day work, such as promoting integrated planning initiatives, securing additional funding for clean water infrastructure, or ensuring water remains affordable for all in the community.
Due to the wide array of issue topics facing lawmakers on a day-to-day basis, they often require the input of specialists to keep them informed on complex topics. In addition to working on the advocacy front, NACWA members can draw on their expertise to inform members of Congress of the latest clean water developments and offer advice on technical and policy questions. This relationship not only keeps lawmakers better informed, but also builds trust.
Simply put, you are the best advocate for your community on clean water issues because you understand the issues facing your facilities, district and state. So, don’t be shy – embrace this opportunity to advance the needs and perspectives of your utility and your community!