Clean water is the lifeblood of communities across the globe – it is a basic need that all humans share, and it is one we cannot do without. Unfortunately, many communities across the Great Lakes region do not have access to safe drinking water due to pollution, including toxic chemicals such as lead and PFAS, farm runoff, and industry-related contamination.

Over the past 10 years, federal investments to restore and protect the Great Lakes have focused on cleaning up pollution and past environmental harm. These investments are producing results, but there is more work to do.

It’s also important to prevent pollution in the first place. Federal funding must go hand in hand with strong clean water protections. This means strengthening policies to ensure that polluters are not allowed to foul the water we all rely upon.

It is up to all candidates running for president in 2020 to explain how they will uphold clean water protections, oppose the weakening of environmental laws, and ensure that Great Lakes communities have access to clean water.

Water pollution continues to plague rural and urban communities alike. From cancer-causing PFAS contamination in Oscoda, Michigan to toxic metals in Wisconsin being released into Lake Michigan, these pollutants affect all of our communities, as all of our waters are connected.

It’s vital to prevent pollution at its source, whether a stream or the Great Lakes themselves, because all of our waters are connected. All streams and rivers flow into bodies of water that we rely on for our health and recreation. There are no streams and rivers where it is safe to pollute. When polluters are able to pollute waters in one area, that pollution contaminates water throughout the system.

With towns and cities still struggling with unsafe drinking water, we need more – not less – protections for clean water.

These protections must take local voices into account. States and tribes must have the power to protect local rivers, wetlands, streams, lakes and the Great Lakes themselves, from pollution. We must honor our communities and the stake they have in ensuring that that children and families do not have to go without the basic need of clean water.

Clean water protections save money for the nation and for local communities by preventing costly cleanups. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – and by preventing dangerous and costly pollution, clean water protections more than pay for themselves in terms of lives saved and damage avoided.

Without strong clean water protections, we run the risk of undoing the progress we’ve made in cleaning up the Great Lakes and the streams and rivers that feed into them. The time is now. 2020 must be the year we redouble our commitment to strengthen our clean water protections and ensuring that no one must go without the basic need of clean water.