Its summertime in Connecticut and many residents will head outdoors to enjoy the state’s plentiful water resources. Before you dip your toes in the water, let’s all take a minute to appreciate all of the hard work and effort that was undertaken to pass Connecticut’s State Water Plan to ensure our water is protected now and into the future.
Close to five years in the making, the State Water Plan is a comprehensive state water plan which lays a foundation for managing, protecting and conserving our water for future generations and will provide a framework for handling many complex issues including whether streams can be pumped dry and whether water bottling companies can set up shop in Connecticut without public notice.
This was a long, hard-fought battle by water advocates to ensure that water is recognized as a public trust resource - a long standing, bedrock doctrine of our law. Thank you to all of the advocates and members who wrote, called, and emailed over these last two years, and for Governor Lamont for standing up to water utility and business lobby pressure.
The plan was nearly shelved in 2018 due to opposition from the Water Utility Association and the Connecticut Business Association. These groups opposed references in the plan to water being part of the “public trust”, fearing heightened scrutiny and encroachment. They were successful in blocking a vote from the joint committees, sending the Plan back to the Council for revisions and resubmission in 2019, an unacceptable setback in implementation for another year.
Thankfully, former Governor Malloy stepped in and issued Executive Order No. 66, which required the implementation of the Plan and re-submission to the General Assembly, as is, in 2019. Clean Water Action and many other groups mobilized to raise awareness on the importance of water as a public trust. This concept is so foundational that often it can be confusing as to the scope of its importance. Our team attended meetings, provided comments, gathered letters and made calls. Together, with our allies, in late May, we stood and watched as the Plan was raised for a vote and passed in both the House and the Senate by wide margins. It was gratifying to see our legislative champions like Rep. Steinberg, Mushinsky and Hampton thrilled that the plan finally passed after all this time and all their hard work and so rewarding to be a lead organization fighting back against corporate interests and protecting our water!
This is truly a historic achievement for Connecticut. With over 450,000 acres of wetlands, 6,000 miles of streams and rivers, and over 2,000 lakes and reservoirs, 618 miles of coastline and 600 square miles of estuarine water, developing a plan to manage the use, management, protection, and conservation of our water now and into the future is critical. These steps will give us the tools we need to address climate change impacts, pollution and overdevelopment. To learn more about our work, visit www.cleanwater.org/ct.