Reviving, Restoring, and Reimagining Clean Water 

After three years of postponing, it finally happened. The Choose Clean Water Coalition held a conference in Richmond, VA focusing on current issues involving Chesapeake Bay restoration. The intention was to advance future federal, regional, and local restoration goals.

All advocates, supporters, and activists met for the two-day forum to focus on the overall theme of the conference: “Revive, Restore, Reimagine.” After many cancellations because of coronavirus spikes, a focus on both renewals of relationships and subsequent action was due.

Making connections

Sessions explored 7 major topics: agriculture, campaigns, clean water, communications, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice (DEIJ), public engagement, and stormwater. Not only did they revive past ideas of conservation, but they also restored a future goal involving members of many communities. Together these forums intersected to form an overarching strategy for reimagining the bay area.

There were also a variety of field trips in the nearby watershed including “Paddle the James,” a canoe trip exploring Turkey Island Creek, a white-water rafting excursion, and a tour of Richmond’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. By getting participants out in the Richmond area, they were exposed to the very effects of the work they had been enacting for the last 3 years.

canoes on river

The event maintained COVID precautions: mandatory testing prior to the conference, indoor masking, and outside sessions. As the first hybrid event, not only were there in-person speakers but virtual attendees were successfully connected through live streaming content. Therefore, all participants could access materials despite any physical barriers.

A grand reception at Main Street Station provided a place for networking, relationship building, and collaboration among conference members. At the awards ceremony, Congressman McEachin and Hope Cupit were named Clean Water Champions for their outstanding dedication to the cause, and incorporation of diversity, equity, and inclusion into their work.

As an ally in Congress, McEachin articulated that throughout his time he has “fought to clean up and protect our waterways, but there is still more that must be done. We must safeguard the progress we have made while addressing environmental injustices and dismantling long-standing inequities that disproportionately harm low-income and minority communities.”

This is exactly what everyone at the conference aimed to reimagine collectively. Next year, the coalition will gather May 23-24 in Harrisburg, PA for the 2023 Choose Clean Water Conference to continue this work!