Water is the lifeblood of Aquidneck Island – residents and visitors value clean coastal waters for swimming, sailing and fishing, and rely on surface reservoirs for safe, plentiful drinking water. Stormwater runoff, which washes pollution into reservoirs and coastal waters, is a major problem throughout the U.S. With relatively little protected watershed, large surface reservoirs, and some of the state’s most popular recreational beaches, Aquidneck Island is uniquely vulnerable to this type of pollution.

That’s why this September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Sen. Jack Reed announced a $1 million grant to the communities of Aquidneck Island for “Island Waters” – an innovative new program to protect and restore fresh and salt water quality on Aquidneck Island. The three-year program was developed by the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) in partnership with the City of Newport, Towns of Middletown and Portsmouth, and nonprofits Aquidneck Land Trust and Clean Ocean Access.

On December 8th  in Newport, the Island Waters partners are hosting a community forum at CCRI’s auditorium to provide an overview of the Island’s interconnected system of fresh and salt waters, discuss pollution issues, and present new solutions for Aquidneck Island. This will be the second installment of AIPC’s “Smart Island Series”.

“We are so fortunate to be working with AIPC on this formative water project over the entire island,” says Aquidneck Land Trust executive director Chuck Allot. “This forum will really give us a chance to showcase the projects we are all currently working on individually and in partnership. We believe that “Island Waters” can really be the glue that brings it all together.”

Speakers and presenters at the forum will include some of the state’s leading advocates and decision-makers on clean water issues, including Curt Spalding, regional administrator for EPA’s New England office and former director of Save the Bay.

“With their enormous value for recreation, drinking water, habitat, and agriculture, Aquidneck Island’s waters are in danger of being loved to death. This forum is proof that communities can come together to launch a real partnership to protect the future for a critical but very vulnerable ecosystem,” says Spalding. “As one of the funding partners, EPA is encouraged that the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission and the Island’s towns are committed to be on the job for the long haul to create solutions.”

The presentation will be followed by a discussion on the future of clean water for the communities of Aquidneck Island. Clean Ocean Access executive director Dave McLaughlin will also share information with Island residents on actions we can all take to help protect and restore clean drinking and coastal waters.

“Every drop of water that falls on the Island is fit to drink, but as soon as it washes into a drain it becomes stormwater,” says McLaughlin. “Let’s work together and treat the water that falls from the sky as a gift, something to hold onto.”

AIPC board chair Richard Adams sums it up, “AIPC is grateful for the support of all our partners in bringing this important event to the Island. The Island Waters forum will introduce the cooperative, collaborative process needed for Aquidneck Island to restore and protect our drinking water supply and coastal resources – while continuing a terrific series of public conversations among Island communities.”

The Island Waters Forum will take place from 6:00-8:00pm on Thursday, December 8th at the CCRI Auditorium, 1 John H Chafee Blvd. Admission is free and open to the public but space is limited. Register online here.

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Ryan Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp, LLC. Belmore has led What's Up Newp since December 2012. Belmore also serves as the Sr. Editor - North America for Mountain News - publisher of OnTheSnow. In his spare time, Belmore serves as the Vice President for the Board of Directors at Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors at Lucy's Hearth. Belmore is also a member and supporter of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.