Hearing from allies in the fight for our environment

As a communications person, sometimes it’s hard to feel directly connected to EPA’s mission. How does editing a speech help protect human health and the environment? I’m not a scientist assessing monitoring data or an enforcement officer…enforcing things. I write about what they do.

Recently, though, I had an opportunity to get a little more involved by helping create an online discussion forum to get insights from the public on some of the biggest problems facing our nation’s water resources. We debuted Coming Together for Clean Water in mid-March and took public comments on watershed management, nutrient pollution, and stormwater management for two weeks so that we could get broad input on these topics in advance of EPA’s upcoming conference of the same title. The conference will convene about 100 executive-level leaders from across the water sector to discuss these three topics. The comments from the online forum will be shared with conference participants.

We received hundreds of thoughtful, detailed comments from people involved in all aspects of the water sector—state environment officials, engineers, advocates, and interested citizens. A lot of participants seemed to want to harness the momentum of the environmental movement by ramping up outreach efforts. By making people feel ownership of their watersheds, rivers, and lakes, we can help them become partners in caring for these resources.

Moderating the comments and watching the conversation grow on this forum (or being the “blog mama,” as I called it) was a great experience. Reading so many great suggestions for addressing water pollution, frustrations about what’s not working, and success stories made me realize that EPA is not in the environmental fight alone—we’ve got lots of willing partners from all walks of life, and they are eager to share their experiences.

About the author: Jennah Durant works on the Office of Water communications team. This blog is part of an ongoing series about EPA’s efforts toward the Open Government Directive that lays out the Obama Administration’s commitment to Open Government and the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration.