On Tuesday, Delaware environmentalists dressed in matching blue T-shirts and met outside Legislative Hall in Dover to raise awareness about the importance of clean water.

The Delaware Nature Society hosted its 2nd annual Clean Water Rally to address concerns about limited funding for clean water infrastructure in hopes of encouraging state government and other stakeholders to keep the environment on top of its list of priorities.

“We’re at the steps of legislative hall, our decision makers can’t step inside the building without seeing these bright blue T-shirts, and knowing their constituents are saying, ‘Hey, when you’re looking at financial priorities going forward don’t forget our most valuable resource, which is water,” said Brenna Goggin, director of advocacy for the Delaware Nature Society.

“We need it to drink, we need it for food, we need it for our health, we need it to bathe in, our wildlife needs it and our tourist industry needs it—so please remember that and invest in it.”

Investing in infrastructure is key to improving waterways and pipes, as well as roads. But funding the state has relied on to make improvements to impaired waterways has been drying up over the years, said Jeff Bross, chairman of Delaware’s Water Infrastructure Advisory Council, which provides loans and grants to municipalities and governments to undertake projects.

Federal and state funding has decreased, and the council is searching for dedicated sources of revenue to tackle the issue, he said.

Bross said the council estimates Delaware needs around $1 billion dollars over the next few years to maintain infrastructure.

“Our infrastructure is aging—most of the infrastructure was built 50 to 60 years ago and is reaching the end of effective life,” he said. “They have to upgrade those, and federal regulations also provides more challenges in terms of funding.”

Delaware has made several environmental strides over the years. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced Tuesday it is relaxing fish consumption advisories after finding toxins and heavy metals in waterways have declined.

DNREC Secretary David Small credits the improved water conditions to long-term work on wastewater treatment plants, and personal behaviors as well.

The Riverfront in Wilmington was once an old shipyard and a contaminated site that received funding for a major cleanup project, the City of Wilmington has made upgrades to wastewater treatment plants and there also are more requirements for managing nutrients in the agriculture sector.

“We need continued resources and additional resources to get the benefits we’ve seen to date and we would like to accelerate those, whether it’s stormwater or wastewater or cleaning up sites,” Small said.

“If we can do that more quickly, get more of that infrastructure on the ground, not only do we get a quicker turnaround on environmental benefit, but we’re also putting people to work and creating jobs and helping stimulate the economy.”

Goggin said the water crisis in Flint, Mich., when residents' water supply was dangerously contaminated as the state didn’t invest in upgrading aged pipe systems, has opened many Americans’ eyes to the importance of infrastructure.

“We don’t face the vulnerability that Michigan is,” Goggin said. “But we have to talk about the protection of our drinking water, we have to talk about protecting the Brandywine, we have to talk about protecting our private wells, and making sure people have access to safe, regulated drinking water and right now not everyone does.”

Jennifer Adkins, executive director for the Partnership of the Delaware Estuary, said Delawareans should take the time to think about how necessary water is in every life.

“Think about all the time you use water from the time you wake up to the moment you go to bed at night,” she said.

“And think is there anything more important than that? Any single thing more important to our daily lives and happiness than that? When you think of that it makes it much easier to be supportive of the kind of resources that need to go into keeping water clean.”