For Giving Tuesday, a look at VoteWater’s 2023 impact

At VoteWater, we fight for better policies and better policy-makers who stand up to special interests like Big Sugar. We educate voters to make informed choices at the ballot box. And we work to preserve the natural beauty of our waterways and their crucial role in Florida’s economy and quality of life.

We’ve got a long way to go, but in 2023 we made an impact; and we’re proud to share our 2023 Impact Report in advance of #GivingTuesday, Nov. 28.

None of this could have been accomplished without you. If you’ve donated recently, thanks for helping us achieve these results. If it’s been a while, please consider donating today and help us work towards the clean-water future all Floridians deserve.

2023 Impact Report

VoteWater Executive Director Gil Smart spoke to key Florida legislators about clean-water issues during the 2023 Florida legislative session.

Making our voices heard in the halls of power: VoteWater went to Tallahassee in 2023, meeting with state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to stress the importance of Everglades restoration, of implementing all recommendations of the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force and the need to oppose pro-sprawl, anti-home rule bills. We’ll be back again in 2024. We also issued “Action Alerts,” making it simple for supporters to call or email legislators on key issues. And VoteWater addressed legislators at delegation meetings this fall in St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach and Broward counties, asking them to oppose bills that would undercut local authority on fertilizer ordinances or weaken wetlands protections.

Taking the fight to Big Sugar: Our “No Big Sugar” money campaign stepped up efforts to strip sugar industry privileges from the federal Farm Bill. In 2023 we lobbied federal legislators and rallied the public to demand change; our newsletters tracked the issue and kept you informed of the latest developments. Federal price supports underwrite Big Sugar’s political clout and enables abuses, like the burning of the sugarcane fields that harms the Glades communities. It’s time to level the playing field — and strike a blow for environmental justice and the Everglades. 

VoteWater in the news: Media visibility is key to making our voice heard, and 2023 saw some big wins. The biggest: A front-page story in the New York Times which quoted VoteWater Executive Director Gil Smart at length on how “Slime time on Lake Okeechobee” has become an annual threat, caused in part by Big Sugar’s sway over water management decisions. In addition, VoteWater joined with other conservation groups to publicize damaging pro-development bills introduced during Legislature’s 2023 “Session of Sprawl” in a campaign covered by media throughout the state.

Diving deep on key issues: Our investigative “Deep Dive” series took on complex, crucial topics in 2023, seeking a deeper understanding of the issues plaguing our waterways. Among the topics: How Big Agriculture is far and away the biggest source of pollution in many basins; how the indiscriminate spreading of biosolids, or sewage sludge, can supercharge water-quality problems; and whether chemical treatments for blue-green algae do more harm than good. As traditional media outlets dial back on environmental explanatory journalism, we’re picking up the mantle and doing more work — and we’ve got more stories coming your way in 2024. 

Exposing ‘Dirty Money’: VoteWater has long reported on “Dirty Money,” campaign contributions from polluting special interests. But in 2023 we significantly expanded our efforts with The Dirty Money Project, an effort that involves tracking campaign contributions to elected officials and political action committees at the federal, state and county levels in eight key south Florida counties (St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Collier and Lee). The project is still in the data gathering and analysis stage; once completed, it will be a definitive road map to influence peddling in south Florida. And we may have some even bigger news on the way — stay tuned.

Staying ahead of the tide: In 2023 we published weekly newsletters which kept subscribers up to date on the latest clean water news and views; we also expanded our newsletters to be more newsy, including a weekly Lake Okeechobee update and links to additional topics of interest. If knowledge is power, our newsletter subscribers are clean-water superheroes!

Join together: There’s strength in numbers, so in 2023 VoteWater became a member of the Everglades Coalition, an alliance of some 60 local, state and national conservation and environmental groups dedicated to full restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. VoteWater’s Gil Smart also serves as a board member for the Stuart-based Rivers Coalition, which includes nearly 100 members and is dedicated to stopping the discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River. And we continue to fight alongside our friends at Friends of the Everglades for cleaner water and better policy to save the “River of Grass.”

There’s more to come in 2024, we promise you. And this giving season, your generosity can help us aim even higher, punch even harder — and make an even bigger difference for our fragile, invaluable waterways.