May 3, 2023 Leigh Martinez

Universal Access to Clean Water Should Be Pennsylvania’s Top Priority

Clean Water Education Week (May 1-5, 2023) addresses budget inequities for state agencies, bolstering the Commonwealth's commitments to environmental justice, and the sustainable continuation of dedicated clean streams funding

Wednesday, May 3, 2023; Harrisburg, P.A. — As the state legislature prepares for budget hearings, both environmentally-conscious lawmakers and advocates call for urgent funding for the state agencies that protect and restore Pennsylvania’s clean water as more than 30% of stream miles in Pennsylvania are so degraded that they're considered impaired by pollution, according to the PA Department of Environmental Protection. 


During Pennsylvania’s Clean Water Education Week at the state capitol, communities throughout Pennsylvania — from the Erie Great Lakes region through Pittsburgh, the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia, and down the Susquehanna River— demand help curbing agricultural and urban stormwater runoff. This pollution poses serious and long-lasting effects on drinking water, conserving wildlife, and maintaining regional recreation on PA’s waterways. 


Last year, Pennsylvania’s leaders within the General Assembly championed transformational legislation to create the Clean Streams Fund and invest $154 million in the Commonwealth’s new Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program. 


“Local, state, and federal partners are working hard to put those dollars to work for Pennsylvania farmers and their local streams as effectively and efficiently as possible,” said Chesapeake Bay Commission Executive Director Anna Killius. “With almost 90% of the initial investment already committed, Pennsylvania’s agriculture community and their partners are proving that additional, dedicated funding is needed to continue accelerating our progress toward cleaner water, strong local economies, and a healthy Chesapeake Bay watershed.”


“The Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program under the Clean Streams Fund provides historic funding for Pennsylvania farmers to install conservation practices on farms," said Doug Wolfgang, Executive Secretary of the State Conservation Commission. “Farmers are some of the best stewards of the land and want to install practices that improve water quality and soil health, while making farms more productive and sustainable for future generations.  ACAP provides much needed technical and financial support to help farmers meet these goals.” 


In addition to the funding for farms, lawmakers are looking for greater assistance in managing flood-prone areas and stopping pollution from stormwater runoff.


“After the devastating impact of Hurricane Ida, residents in my district worry about future storms that may bring the floodwaters back to our community,” said Representative Joe Webster (D-150, Montgomery County). “I'm working on legislation aimed at strengthening not only stormwater management but also to ensure healthy riparian buffers to slow down fast-moving stormwater. Both of these efforts will positively impact the quality of the water that we and the local flora and fauna rely upon. Water quality impacts every county and every community in Pennsylvania. We have a responsibility as legislators, advocates, businesses and residents to invest in clean water for our commonwealth.” 


This year, the coalition of environmental organizations want to codify Environmental Justice in funding programs, ensuring underrepresented communities have a voice at the state level. 


"Pennsylvania's constitution guarantees the right to clean water, and we need to do more to safeguard that right for everyone in the Commonwealth,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Governor Shapiro’s budget provides significant funding to safeguard water quality in our Commonwealth and DCNR stands ready to do our part to ensure every Pennsylvania has clean water. Without water there is no life, and we must not miss this opportunity to improve the conditions around this life-sustaining natural resource.”


“Clean water, particularly in a water-rich state like Pennsylvania, provides countless benefits, but the promise of clean water doesn't exist for everyone and the preservation of these natural resources isn't guaranteed,” said Mariah Davis, Acting Director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. “With the mighty Susquehanna River and all of the Keystone State's waterways playing a vital role in the Commonwealth's economy, public health, and way of life, we urge the Pennsylvania General Assembly to build on the momentum created by the historic investment of the Clean Streams Fund in the 2022 state budget. Further resources and support is needed to meet the growing demand for programs that improve the health of rivers and streams throughout the Commonwealth. Together with our network of more than 280 nonprofit organizations, we will continue the work to leave a legacy of clean water to future generations.”


The Capitol rotunda press conference will be held on Wednesday, May 3 from 11:30am - 12:30pm and emceed by PennFuture’s President & CEO Patrick McDonnell. 


Featured speakers include: 

  • Representative Joe Webster (District 150, Montgomery County)
  • Representative Mandy Steele (District 33, Allegheny County/Ohio Watershed)
  • Doug Wolfgang, Executive Secretary, State Conservation Commission
  • Anna Killius, Executive Director of Chesapeake Bay Commission
  • Sara Ramotnik, Program Coordinator at Choose Clean Water Coalition
  • High Garst, State Policy Advocate for Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed


“As a Coalition dedicated to protecting and restoring the Delaware River Watershed, we are proud to unite with advocates across the Commonwealth to urge the PA Legislature and Governor Shapiro to invest in projects that fund clean water programs, safeguard our drinking water, and preserve our critical natural resources,” said High Garst, State Policy Advocate for the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed. “By prioritizing funding for clean water at the state level in Pennsylvania and throughout the Delaware River Watershed, we can secure a future that supports the needs of generations to come.” 

Pennsylvania’s Clean Water Education Week campaign is in collaboration with PennFuture, Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, and Choose Clean Water Coalition.


Media Contact: 

Leigh Martinez

Communications Director, PennFuture

(267) 888-7875