We are Water Evanston is a community-based participatory research project that explores our relationship with and concerns about water.
Local water activists and educators from Citizens’ Greener Evanston’s Watershed Collective and researchers from Northwestern’s Center for Water Research came together in early 2020 to better understand water-related challenges in the City to inform evidence-based solutions.
In this eight-article series, we share some of our key findings and calls to action on topics including beach access, water experiences of the housing insecure, flooding and green infrastructure, drinking water safety perceptions, water information sources and what it means to our community to live next to Lake Michigan.
So far, the RoundTable has published:
Why care about water?
Evanston is a water-rich City that sits right next to one of the largest freshwater sources in the world. At the same time, parts of the City face acute water problems, be it through exposure to lead pipes or inundation from stormwater runoff. We feel that water, often invisible, can be a useful medium through which Evanstonians connect and solve complex problems together.
The Watershed Collective, a subcommittee of Citizens’ Greener Evanston, had been discussing the need to understand public perceptions on water issues for some time. We had been working with the City’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan Implementation Task Force as well to figure out next steps to address the most pressing water issues the City is facing.
We wondered, how do the people of Evanston relate to these water issues? Are there other water concerns not present in the Climate Action and Resilience Plan that Evanstonians face?
How did we engage with community members?
Community-based participatory research is an approach in which members of a community bring forth a question or concern (in this case, water perspectives and priorities), and researchers work with them to engage with community members to research and analyze findings with specific next steps.
To this end, the Watershed Collective joined with researchers at Northwestern’s Center for Water Research to conduct online surveys, in-person and video interviews, and art workshops with the broader community.
We don’t claim to represent the experiences or perceptions of all Evanstonians, but we have attempted to include a diverse sample of voices, including from more than 800 Evanstonians across all nine wards; young and old; homeowners, renters and the unhoused; and of all races and gender identities.
As a community-based project, we welcome continued resident participation and reactions, which can be emailed to email@example.com.
The We are Water team consists of:
Leadership team: Clare Tallon Ruen, Vidya Venkataramanan and Liliana Hernandez Gonzalez
Research and Writing team: Colleen O’Brien, Erin McCotter, Anika Mittu, Revika Singh, Isabel Azpiroz, Zora Ruen and Zephyr Balch.
Mentored by: Ann Brummitt, Milwaukee Water Commons and Sera Young, Northwestern University
Funding support provided by: Evanston Community Foundation, National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1848683 and Northwestern University (Summer Internship Grant Program, Institute for Policy Research Summer Undergraduate Research Assistant Program, Resnick Family Social Impact Fund, Institute for Sustainability and Energy).