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Urban Waters National Training Workshop Held This Week

EPA held its Urban Waters National Training Workshop this week in Arlington, VA.  Almost 500 participants attended the workshop representing Federal, state, and local governments, non-profits (including ASDWA), and others from across the country.  Opening remarks for the workshop were provided Mike Shapiro, Deputy Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water and included a video message from Administrator Gina McCarthy; both of whom noted the importance of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership (UWFP). The Partnership is supported by 14 Federal agencies and more than 28 non-governmental organization (NGO) partners to facilitate community based engagement in underserved urban areas to improve their waterways and promote economic, environmental, and social benefits.  The goals of the workshop were as follows:

  1. Strong Urban Waters Movement: Inspire and strengthen the urban waters movement to build and sustain robust effective partnerships across the country.
  2. Authentic Community Engagement: Strengthen our skills in working together with underserved communities to address community-based priorities and environmental justice challenges.
  3. Partnerships on the Ground: Connect, share, and learn with other innovators about how to convene, engage, and succeed in our partnership work.

During the workshop, a variety of speakers shared information and engaged the audience in discussions about some of the existing Urban Waters projects taking place across the country, and identified resources and opportunities to help others who are interested in developing and furthering community based programs. Some highlights from the workshop included:

  • A number of local representatives from some of the 19 Urban Waters projects around the country shared information about how they have used “authentic” community engagement to build relationships with residents and drive actions based on their knowledge, desires, and needs to enhance their quality of life by protecting public health, the health of their waterways, and their economy and environment. These projects have pooled resources and funding to create programs with multiple partners that include watershed protection, parks and open spaces, education, and more.
  • A session aimed at engaging local officials provided participants with tips for: getting their attention and setting up a meeting, developing a one-pager with key messages as well as a specific “ask” of them, building a relationship, and inviting them to briefings and media events.
  • A representative from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) shared information about the EDA’s grant program designed to leverage assets and support technical assistance and revolving loan fund projects in rural and urban areas that advance economic prosperity in distressed communities.
  • The site designer for the East Capitol Urban Farm presented information about how the three-acre farm was created in southeast Washington, DC with beds for gardening, an aquaponics system, walking trails, community art, and playspace for children. The farm creates a model for future projects, as it was constructed using 1,000 volunteers and supported by a team of partners including the UWFP, the University of the District of Columbia, the DC Housing Authority, the DC Building Industry Association, Groundwork Anacostia, and others.
  • Representatives from the Wege, Pisces, and Kresge Foundations shared information about the philanthropic projects they have funded and how to engage their support for potential projects that may align with the organization’s goals. They emphasized that foundations invest in the social sector and may act as advisors, strategists, operators for projects that they fund.  Some examples of such efforts include the Blue Sky Funders Forum that helps members learn, connect, and grow philanthropy that supports environmental literacy and a stronger connection to nature, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that collaboratively works to help implement laws and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels to reduce pollution, restore natural systems, and encourage smart growth in its communities.
  • Peter Grevatt, EPA’s Director of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water, moderated a session on addressing public health challenges that included information about how a number of Urban Waters projects have used Health Impact Assessments to aim their actions and outcomes to improve the communities health and quality of life.

For more information about EPA’s Urban Waters program, visit the EPA web site.