Advancing Our Water Justice Agenda
By Lynny Brown & the Oregon Water Futures Collaborative
Every single person has a water story to tell. Some stories are of joy and laughter, others are of ingenuity and resourcefulness, and others still are of sickness and trauma. “Water is sacred; water is life,” are phrases we repeatedly heard as we talked about water with Native, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other migrant communities from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific Islands in the state. Yet, their voices, values, and ways of relating to water are not reflected in water policy, management, and decision-making at the state and local levels.
The Oregon Water Futures Collaborative created the Oregon Water Justice Framework to help shape state and local efforts to advance a water justice agenda and begin to resolve our long-standing disparities in water resources by engaging low-income, rural, and communities of color as water actors and community assets. These communities offer creative solutions to water challenges that the state faces. The framework provides policymakers with a roadmap for centering equity as they weigh the state’s many water needs and points to six community-driven priorities: Indigenous Water Justice Leadership, Renter’s Rights, Water Access & Affordability, Natural & Built Infrastructure for Clean Water, Emergency Preparedness, and Community Empowerment.
We will not accomplish water justice in a single legislative session and it will not be completed by a single group. Rather, it requires an intentional investment in relationships, trust, recognition of history, and centering the leadership of communities experiencing inequities. Oregon’s water future will take all of us working together over time and through conflict. But it’ll be worth it – only together can we build a vision for water that doesn’t leave anyone behind and allows all of our communities to thrive for the next 100 years and beyond.
Check out more work from Oregon Water Futures, a collaboration between Verde, Coalition of Communities of Color, Oregon Environmental Council, Willamette Partnership, and the University of Oregon. Through a water justice lens, we aim to impact how the future of water in Oregon is imagined through storytelling, capacity building, relationship building, policymaking, and community-centered advocacy at the state and local levels.
- Oregon Water Futures: 2020-2021 Community Engagement (2021)
- State of Water Justice in Oregon: A Primer on How Oregon Water Infrastructure Challenges Affect Frontline Communities Across the State (2022)
- Oregon Water Justice Framework: Community-Driven Principles and Priorities to Advance Water Justice (2022)
- Subscribe to the Oregon Water Justice Network Monthly Newsletter
- Are you a Tribal partner, community leader, community-based organization, or environmental justice organization working on water justice? If so, we’d love to have you attend our monthly virtual gatherings and slack channel! To get involved, please fill out an interest form.