Once again, members of the NH Water Pollution Control Association (NHWPCA) traveled to Washington, DC on April 17-18 to participate in the annual New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA) Congressional Briefing. This visit coincided with a National Fly-In for water professionals from around the country. This was the first year that the Fly-In combined drinking water and wastewater in a collaboration to double our efforts for effective outreach on all water infrastructure and topics.
New England was well represented with more than 30 folks attending, and New Hampshire was well represented by both NHWPCA and NH Water Works Association (NHWWA) members. Dan Driscoll, Superintendent for Concord WWTF; Shelagh Connelly and Eryka Reid from RMI, were joined by drinking water folks including Charity Ross the Executive Director for NHWWA, John Lyons, the President of NHWWA and Chris Hodgson the President of NEWWA.
The purpose of the Fly-In was to get in front of our elected officials to make sure they understand how important it is to continue funding water infrastructure and supporting programs and policies that ensure clean water for all our communities. With many programs seeking funding through the federal budget, it is important that water advocates are at the table.
On Tuesday we enjoyed the NEWEA luncheon and briefing. Shelagh Connelly was delighted to introduce both Senator Shaheen and Senator Hassan and it was very nice to be able to recognize their long-term involvement in water quality issues starting back when they were each state senators, then NH Governors, and now our federal Senators. Strong, smart and powerful women from NH who are not afraid to lead the charge on water quality!
Later that day there was an excellent Policy Fly-In Plenary with an incredible line-up of speakers from the water industry. The panel of speakers included leadership from WEF, NACWA, EPA, Dept. of Interior, Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Energy, and several staff with topics ranging from funding to blending to water reuse to USDA Farm Bill, integrated planning to WIFIA and affordability. This was an excellent event and well worth the trip. And then it got even better with an evening reception filled with interesting talk amidst all the water peers from around the country!
The next day kicked off with a Congressional Breakfast and Staff Roundtable which was packed with excellent policy discussion and could have lasted all day but was limited to 2 hours before we headed over to the Hill for a Joint Congressional Briefing in the Senate Dirksen Building. George Hawkins gave a rallying talk and we heard from several speakers about the importance of participating in these Fly-Ins and being connected to our elected officials so they never forget that clean water is a top priority for our government and investment in infrastructure is essential.
We then headed out as our group of 6 from NH and met with the offices of our 4 delegates. The first stop was with Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter’s office and we were delighted to meet with her staffer Tony Hobbs who made it a point to bring out his Water’s Worth It water bottle that we had given him back 4 years ago! We had a good chat with Congresswoman Annie Kuster’s staffer Justin German and they too had the Water’s Worth It mug we had brought down 5 years ago. Next up was a meeting and photo with Senator Hassan, followed by an end of day meeting with Ariel Marshall who manages the environmental policy issues for Senator Shaheen. Fortunately we had fancy mugs from the NHWPCA and NHDES 50th celebration (courtesy of Ray Gordon!) to give to each office and we will look to see which staffer got to keep them on our next visit!
Our final event was another reception atop the Library of Congress. What a view of the Capitol and all the beautiful buildings and monuments in the area. The food and drink were wonderful and we met people from all over this country. This trip, and advocating for water, is truly worth it!
As Congressman James McGovern from Massachusetts reminded us – our passion for water is important to share every year in Washington. With so many competing issues we have to be at the table sharing our story. The message we carried was about the need to invest in our aging and failing water infrastructure, the difficulty of working with increasing regulatory burden, the acknowledgement that water is essential to our economy and public health, and the need for a sustainable water trust.
The NHWPCA is committed to visiting DC each year so that our delegation keeps water as a high priority. The unseen water infrastructure needs a champion – and that is what we are, because Water’s Worth It!