While every day is Great Lakes Day for water advocates of the region, March 9th served as a critical moment to remind the United States and Canadian governments about the importance of these waters that hold 20% of the Earth’s fresh surface water. Great Lakes Day is an annual event when residents and organizations gather to educate and inform decision-makers in Washington D.C. about threats to the waters and the inseparable nature of the Great Lakes and the fate of its inhabitants.
Freshwater Future program co-directors Alexis Smith, Anna Bunting, and Kristen Haitaian were honored to be joined by a team of grassroots water advocates who grounded these conversations in the needs and concerns of their communities. Cassandra Floyd of the West Grand Boulevard Collaborative and Jeff Whitelow of Chicago Water Alliance brought forth a vital conversation about water affordability. They shared difficult stories of loved ones going years without water in their homes due to the inability to pay despite working full time, all while surrounded by the largest surface freshwater in the world. Additionally, Dr. Eric Hellquist of Sterling Water Stewards and Shannon Abbot of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation shared stories about the regional threat of private water companies whose for-profit water extraction negatively impacts the sustainability of public water systems and the local way of life.
The Freshwater Future team and Community advocates met with their respective elected officials to share their stories from across the region. From hallway meetings in front of elevators to sitting in plush armchairs, the team provided education on water justice issues their constituents are dealing with. Beyond discussing water affordability and protections against privatization, the team created a leave-behind to further educate elected officials on Great Lakes water justice priorities. It was a busy day on the Hill! Great Lakes Day happened to coincide with the release of President Biden’s budget and the Senate hearing on the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
Freshwater Future thanks Jeff, Shannon, Eric, and Casandra for their amazing work and for joining us at Great Lakes Day!
Pictured from back left to bottom right: Dr. Eric Hellquist, Shannon Abbott, Cassandra Floyd, Anna Bunting, Kristen Haitaian, and Alexis Smith. Not pictured: Jeff Whitelow.