'Water warriors' rally for steady funding to pay for clean water, flood control projects

They call themselves 'water warriors,' and for several consecutive years they have come to Legislative Hall in Dover to press for steady funding to address a backlog of clean water and flood control projects in Delaware.

This year, they have new hope in the form of a bill that seeks to use existing funds instead of creating new fees or taxes.

"Clean water is not a privilege. It's a human right," House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D- Bear) said during a rally on the steps of Legislative Hall Wednesday morning. "That's why we're here today."

Longhurst is the sponsor of House Bill 200 (a number she chose because H2O is the chemical symbol of water). The measure would establish a Clean Water Trust and set up an advisory council to prioritize water-related projects. A bonding mechanism would allow additional funds to be raised.

Speakers at the rally also included Collin O'Mara, Delaware's former Natural Resources Secretary who now heads the National Wildlife Federation.

"In one of the most wealthy states, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, there is no excuse that folks are drinking well water laced with nitrates, that there are 19 'boil water' advisories, that there are communities facing flooding with greater and greater frequency," O'Mara said. "These are all problems that we can solve."

Longhurst said when the bill was introduced that federal funding for water infrastructure had been cut by 75 percent since the 1980s and that more than $700 million in projects need to be funded over the next five years.

"The danger is already here," Delaware Nature Society Director of Advocacy Brenna Goggin said. "Our roads are already flooded. Salt water intrusion is already occurring. There are still communities in this state that don't have access to clean water or wastewater infrastructure."

"The danger is here. We need to act."