The Blue Communities Movement

We have everything you need to learn about Blue Communities and get your own city or town on the Blue Community map!

April 2021
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The Movement At A Glance

  • 1: OVERVIEW
    • Learn how Blue Communities started and see sample resolutions.
  • 2: THE BACKGROUND
    • Find out why it’s crucial to become a Blue Community.
  • 3: STEPS TO BECOME A BLUE COMMUNITY
    • Learn about launching your own Blue Community campaign and
      register for a free toolkit!
Part 1:

Overview

Learn how Blue Communities started and see sample resolutions.

Protecting Our Water Locally & Nationally

We can transform our country to ensure that every person has access to safe, clean, affordable, public tap water.

On a national level on our Food & Water Action side, we’re working to pass the WATER Act in Congress to support this vision and provide a comprehensive solution to support public water for all.

You can take action in your own community by passing a local resolution to turn your city or town into a Blue Community.

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A Blue Community:

Recognizes water and sanitation as human rights;

Rejects water privatization in all its forms; and

Bans or phases out bottled water in government buildings and at municipal events.

Here’s a sample resolution for any municipality in the United States to protect residents’ water.

The First Blue Community

In 2011, Burnaby in British Columbia, Canada, became the first Blue Community. Since then, 80 communities around the world have joined the effort — check out this map by the Council of Canadians: Almost 25 million people now live in official Blue Communities that have pledged to promote water as a human right, protect water as a public trust and public service, and phase out bottled water in government buildings and events. These cities include Montreal, Vancouver, Paris, Berlin and Brussels. 

Here’s a sample resolution for any municipality in the United States to protect residents’ water including factory farming and fracking side effects.

In the United States, Northampton, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles, California, have become Blue Communities, but we have a lot more work to turn our country blue.
Part 2:

The Background

Find out why it’s crucial to become a Blue Community.

What Are the Issues?

1 Water as a basic human right is under attack.

Across the United States, toxic water and unaffordable water bills are infringing on the basic human rights of millions of people, hurting poor people and Black and Indigenous communities of color the most. In a typical year, an estimated 15 million people in the country experience a water shutoff, losing basic water service simply because they cannot afford to pay their water bills. Water is intrinsic to living a life with dignity, and to life itself. We need water to drink, cook food, bathe, clean, wash our hands and flush our toilets. In the midst of a global pandemic, this basic essential need for water has never been clearer.

2 Water privatization undermines the basic human right.

At its core, turning water over to a for-profit company abdicates a basic government responsibility to protect and promote the human right to water. Water privatization gives a water corporation control over an essential service, typically leading to higher rates and worse service. On average, private water companies charge 59% more than local government charge households, while customer service declines. Outsourcing typically leads to a loss of one in three water jobs, slowing maintenance and customer service requests. 

3 Bottled water undermines the human right to water.

Bottled water companies like Nestlē extract local water supplies to put in plastic bottles and ship around the world to generate profit. Bottled water costs thousands of times more than local tap water – it’s more expensive than gasoline. Bottled water uses upwards of 82 million barrels of oil to generate 4 billion of pounds of plastic – enough to fill the Empire State building more than 1.3 times each year – and most of these bottles end up in landfills. People and the environment lose.

Part 3:

Steps To Become A Blue Community

Learn about launching your own Blue Community campaign and register for a free toolkit!

Step 1: Launch A Campaign

Initial Planning Meeting
An initial planning meeting is a good way to bring together others interested in becoming the core group that can work to get the Blue Communities resolution passed. You can recruit people to an initial planning meeting by talking with others who care about the human right to water and representatives of organizations who might have an interest in working to pass a local resolution — including community-based environmental organizations, housing groups, labor unions, religious organizations and other groups in your community.  You can also do general outreach by inviting people on email lists, posting to social media, hanging up flyers in high-traffic areas and asking others to spread the word.

Step 2: Develop A Strategy

The next step is doing your homework and planning a strategy. You’ll need to clearly identify your goal, understand how your city council or local decision-making body works, and map out a strategy for moving the resolution forward.

a. Have a clear goal: The goal is to pass a Blue Communities resolution. Food & Water Watch has two different templates that you can use: one resolution is focused on the principles of a Blue Community, and the other one encompasses Food & Water Watch’s long-term goals including banning fracking and factory farms. Choose the one that makes the most sense for your community. 

b. Identify decision makers: To pass the resolution, you will need the support of your city or town council to vote in favor of it, so take a look at the council and identify who will likely support it, who will likely oppose it, and who may be undecided. Questions to ask: How many votes do you need to pass it? Are there key members whom others listen to and have the power to move something like this? Does the mayor have a vote on the council just like any other member, or do they have the power to veto a resolution if it is passed?

c. Take stock of your resources: Questions to ask: Who is in your core group and what resources do they bring? Who has relationships with members of the council? Are there representatives of other organizations, and if so, how many members do they have? Could they help with things like getting people to key meetings? Who has time — and how much time — to put into the campaign?

d. Identify allies and opponents, if any, and their power: Your initial meeting is just a starting place. You’ll want to think about other individuals and organizations that might help you. Think particularly about who might have some power or influence with council members. Consider what these potential allies’ interests are — why they would care about your campaign and what they might bring to the campaign, as well as who from your group will contact them. Also think about any potential opponents. Who might oppose the resolution, what power do they have over the city council members and what might they do to fight the resolution? Think about what arguments they might make to council members and how you would respond to them. Food & Water Watch can help with this.

e. Map out an initial timeline: Your campaign will evolve over time, but you should map out an initial timeline that your core group is accountable for and make sure your plans are realistic and achievable. Make sure to not take everything on yourself. A campaign will be much more fun and successful if work is spread among several people, with each taking the lead on different aspects of the campaign.

Step 3: Get Public Support

You’ll need to do outreach to demonstrate widespread support for the Blue Community resolution in your community. This outreach can take two forms: organizations and individuals.

a. Organizations: You can talk with representatives of local organizations and businesses you think will support your Blue Community campaign. Food & Water Watch will provide you with a sample sign-on letter and you can ask them to sign on to it. This will give you a document listing influential supporters that you can share with city council members to demonstrate widespread support for becoming a Blue Community. It will also give you a list of groups you can invite into your campaign and who can help publicize council hearings to their members and generate attendance.

b. Individuals: You will also want to get large numbers of individuals to support your campaign by signing a petition in support of becoming a Blue Community. Food & Water Watch will provide a petition tool to collect names, addresses, emails and phone numbers of supporters. Food & Water Watch can help you set up your online petition. During the pandemic, we urge you to use digital tools to collect petitions online, by email and by text. We can send you a number for a text opt-in that you can put on flyers around town to allow you to collect signatures easily. Set goals for yourselves and remember to reach out to people who are constituents of the council members you are asking to support the resolution. Gathering more signatures from the district of a hesitant council member is a great tactic. After collecting signatures, call or email the people who signed it and invite them to get involved in the campaign itself. Calling is always better, but if you only have an email address, of course use that.

Step 4: Meet With Council Members

You need to engage with the council members who can pass the resolution after you’ve built strong support for it. Once you have that, you will be able to make a bolder ask and your elected representatives will be more likely to give you what you want. If you have a strong enough group and enough individuals and organizations supporting the resolution, it will be much harder for them to say no.

a. Identify a sponsor and make a strong ask: Who you want to sponsor your resolution depends on a lot of factors. The best sponsor will be someone who is strongly supportive of the Blue Communities resolution and has good relationships with other members of the council. It’s difficult to pass something when the lead sponsor is someone who has alienated their peers. You also want a sponsor who will stay strong with you and not compromise on the values of the resolution. 

Once you identify this member, make a strong ask. Meet with the council member in a small group. Bring a couple of lead organizational supporters who have some power in the council member’s district — people who might have helped deliver votes in the member’s last election or have significant membership in the district. Also, make sure to bring your coalition letter and copies of the petitions you’ve gathered. An elected official will take you seriously when you can demonstrate you represent a significant number of people.

When you make your ask, be direct and polite. If you’ve done your homework and identified a member who is supportive, this should be an easy ask. Give them a copy of the resolution you want introduced, get their commitment to introduce it, and talk with the member about when the resolution will be brought for a hearing and vote. You should also ask their opinion about other council members — where they might stand and whether the sponsor can talk with them about supporting your resolution.

b. Meeting with other council members: After you have a council member to introduce the resolution, set up meetings with the other council members to determine how they will vote. Set up meetings in advance by emailing or calling their offices (this will depend on the size of your city/town and you and your allies’ relationship with the members). Make sure that when you meet with them, representatives of other organizations join you that have members in the appropriate districts and/or constituents from their districts. Bring the coalition letter and petition copies. If your council members are elected by district, be prepared to tell them the number of people in their districts that signed the petition, because that will be most important to them.

Make a direct ask for each council member to support the resolution and get a clear answer. If they ask for more information, provide it for them. If you do not know the answer to a question, tell them you will get back with them. If they do not commit to supporting the resolution at the initial meeting, set a follow-up meeting to get their position. If you do not get a commitment from any of the members, and especially if there is opposition, you will want to implement additional tactics to pressure those members. Get people from their districts to call and ask for their support, organize people in their districts or organize people

to write letters to local newspapers calling on the council members who are undecided to support the resolution. Do more petition gathering and organizational outreach to increase the pressure on your target. You don’t want the council to take a vote unless you think you have a good chance of the resolution passing.

Step 5: Pressure The Council Members

Before the council votes, demonstrate public support for the resolution through public comments at hearings or council meetings, traditional news media and social media, and calls and petitions into offices. 

a. Public comments or testimony. There will be opportunity for the public to weigh in during a council meeting or public hearing. Every hearing or public comment period is a chance to educate and mobilize people to support Blue Communities. You’ll want to pack the meetings. That is critical to getting it passed. There are several ways to do this: Call all the groups that signed your letter in support of the resolution and ask them to come to the hearing and invite their members. Call everyone that has signed the petition supporting the resolution, tell them about the meeting and ask them to come. Send notices about the hearing on community email lists and through social media like Facebook and Twitter. Line up good speakers who can explain all the reasons your community should become a Blue Community and why council members need to support the resolution.

Though it varies by state, cities or towns will usually allow members of the public to speak on issues that are on the agenda, pursuant to the state’s open meeting laws. You may have to sign up just before or at the beginning of the hearing. Make sure to get there early for that reason — also important for getting good seats! Encourage everyone to fill out speaker cards, as there may be a limit to the number of speakers. Have your top speakers lined up. If one of them doesn’t get called, someone else may be able to give them his or her time slot. Prepare in advance and make a strong argument why the council should pass the resolution.  Whoever speaks first should ask everyone who is there supporting the resolution to stand up or hold up their signs or identify themselves in some public way so the council can see how broad the support is. People who represent groups should identify those groups and who they represent. Someone should also read off a list of all the organizations and businesses that signed the group letter supporting the resolution. If your town allows people to bring signs into the council meetings, make and bring signs that clearly call for supporting Blue Communities. If not, make sure everyone on your side is clearly identified by wearing a Blue shirt or outfit. Give everyone who comes to the hearing an 81⁄2” x 11” piece of paper that says in large letters “Turn our Community Blue!” When members of the council look out at the audience, they should see their constituents support becoming a Blue Community.

b. Media outreach: Media coverage serves a few important purposes. It can put pressure on members of the council to support the resolution, help educate other members of the community about the issue, and energize your supporters about your campaign. So, getting your issue in the media will be important.

Letters to the editor: A letter to the editor is a 150-to-250-word letter that anyone can submit to the editorial page of a newspaper. Food & Water Watch can send you a letter template, but it is important that your letter is different and comes directly from the person submitting it. In large cities, it is unlikely that a newspaper will print a letter unless it responds to some article that the paper has written. In that case, keep an out for water-related news that you could tie your letter to as a response. Then get several people to submit letters that use that article to call for support of becoming a Blue Community. 

Reach out to reporters: The main way to alert reporters about an upcoming hearing or vote on a resolution is a media advisory. This is a short statement that has the “who, what, when, where and why” of the hearing. Food & Water Watch will send you a sample media advisory that you can edit with the right information and email to the key reporters at least a day in advance of the hearing. Call the reporters and talk with them about the resolution and why your community needs it. Be brief and clear — reporters are busy and probably won’t want to chitchat, but a good pitch explaining why the issue is significant to your community and why a reporter should cover the issue might result in some coverage in advance of a hearing or vote.

Social media: before the vote, ask all the organizational and petition signers to post on their social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) in support of the resolution and tag your council member, if they are on that platform. Food & Water Watch will send you a sample social media toolkit to use with sample posts and images.

c. Calls into the council members: Before the vote, council members need to hear from their constituents personally about why they should support the Blue Communities resolution. Reach out to all the organizations on the sign on letter and all the petition signers to ask them to call the council members. Food & Water Watch will send you a sample call script. A call should take about two minutes. Calls are the best simple way for elected officials to know that an issue is important to their constituents.

Step 6: Celebrate Victory

If the resolution does not pass the first time, don’t give up! It just means you need to do more organizing and generate more public pressure on your council. Go back to step one and hold a meeting to consider next steps. You can still build a larger, more powerful group to show that more people support the resolution. Remember, officials are ultimately elected by the voters and are accountable to the people. You’ll need to organize more to demonstrate a majority of their constituents support becoming a Blue Community. When the resolution passes, congratulations!  You’ve done some great work! Celebrate that victory with all the supporters! This is something we don’t do often enough. Celebrating victories is important because we deserve to feel great when we win and also because it builds community and will energize everyone for the next fight. Once you’ve gotten a resolution passed supporting the Blue Communities, don’t forget to send the resolution to Food & Water Watch — we are tracking all the resolutions passed. When yours is passed, send a copy to us and we’ll share it on our Facebook page where activists across the country can see it. We want to publicize your win!  Then leverage your newly powerful group to build your next campaign! Beyond the local resolution, there is much more to do. Take some time and work with your group to pick a new goal and identify a new target to take action in support of Blue Communities (maybe you can move on to the County Commission), or to gather federal support for your local community water system by asking your Congress members to cosponsor the WATER Act. By continuing to build and mobilize in communities across the country we can make amazing changes. So keep organizing!

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