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A Day in the Life: A Water Advocate’s Experience on Capitol Hill

Every March, Great Lakes enthusiasts descend on Capitol Hill to talk with Members of Congress about the importance of protecting and investing in the largest freshwater system in the entire world — our Great Lakes. I look forward to Great Lakes Days every year because I get to join advocates across the region to fight for clean water. Supported by the Healing our Waters Coalition, advocates collectively tell the local stories of Great Lakes restoration successes, communities in need of upgraded water systems, and the importance of climate action and environmental justice.

This year, Ohio’s team of 12 Great Lakes advocates included a farmer/water scientist, community action agency leader, solar entrepreneur, urban agriculture leader, and lead-free water advocate. We were also joined by a Cuyahoga River Area of Concern advisory committee member, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association president, and the Director of the Ohio Conservation Federation.

During Great Lake Days, Riley Dean, Political Associate for the OEC; Alicia Smith, Executive Director of Junction Coalition; and I helped lead our Ohio team to and from meetings on Capitol Hill with lawmakers from the Buckeye State. Together, we helped kick off conversations with aides in the offices of Senators Brown and Vance as well as nine U.S. Representatives. We don’t always get to meet directly with our elected leaders, but this year, we were thrilled to meet with Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, a strong Great Lakes champion.

All photos courtesy of Melanie Houston and coalition partners.

In our meetings, we advocated for reauthorization of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding. Our coalition is urging Congress to dedicate $500 million per year from 2027- 2031 for projects that improve the Great Lakes’ water quality. While sharing the stories of our local communities, we asked lawmakers for sustained funding levels for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds — targeted toward the biggest problems and the communities hardest-hit by pollution. And finally, we pressed Members of Congress to support bold, comprehensive action on climate change, including reducing harmful algal blooms worsened by increased flooding, and to strengthen the Clean Water Act.

Our work at Great Lakes Days demonstrates the power of collaboration in driving meaningful change for the health of our waters. But our advocacy on Capitol Hill is just one step; the fight to protect our precious Great Lakes continues every day in communities across Ohio.

Help advocate for Ohio’s water resources by downloading our Advocacy Toolkit by scanning the QR code or by visiting