The “Fierce Urgency of Now” and the Movement for Clean Water

As we stand on the precipice of a new day – a very confusing, challenging new day. It doesn’t feel like Maya Angelou’s “daybreak that is wonderfully clear,” but something’s afoot. With a new presidential administration, a new Congress, and a new legislature in Charleston, there is potential to break through business as usual models and forge new relationships and collaboration.

As the newest member of the WV Rivers’ staff, I am struck by how this organization navigates our ever changing political landscape with such grace. This team is always finding opportunity to build relationships and collaborate. Essential work that is firmly founded on truth-telling.

The truth that clean drinking water is, unfortunately, a luxury in many places across the globe. Water is the most basic human need.

The truth that public water systems are exposed to harmful chemicals through permit violations linked to mining, manufacturing, and hydraulic fracturing.

The truth that clean water access should be a right for all people in West Virginia, but especially in our most marginalized communities. Clean water access impacts public health, child well-being, and local economies.

These truths lead us to what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to as the “fierce urgency of now.” In his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King first alluded to this urgency stating “now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

For over 30 years, WV Rivers has been working to make real the promises of democracy. Whether it’s through water quality testing, permit violation reporting, or advocating for public policy measure’s, WV Rivers and our members have been working tirelessly on behalf of West Virginia’s rivers and streams.

But as Dr. King reminded us in his 1967 sermon at Riverside Church in New York City,

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is a thief of time.”

Now is the time to leverage our collective political will.

In 2020, WV Rivers worked to pass a PFAS Study Resolution, thanks to a public education and advocacy campaign which generated 20, 810 letters to elected officials and decision-makers. This example and countless others are important markers for civic engagement and policy making.

It is clear that we cannot be truth-tellers without your support. Stay up to date with our public policy work by signing up for our weekly water policy updates during the upcoming legislative session. You can also learn more about our work year-round by subscribing to our WV Rivers email.

As we stand at the dawn of this new day, let us not allow procrastination to be the enemy of good.

Chett Pritchett is the development officer at WV Rivers. You can connect with Chett by emailing him at, or giving him a call at (304) 315-4799.

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