LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — The Clean Water Fund provides grant opportunities for projects, such as educational campaigns or streambank stabilization efforts, that help restore and protect Lancaster County’s waterways.

“There’s an immense need for clean water projects and change in Lancaster County because half of our streams are considered impaired,” Emily Smedley, communications and program manager for the Lancaster Clean Water Partners, said.

The Clean Water Fund is the Lancaster Clean Water Partners’ donor-advised fund at the Lancaster County Community Foundation. The Lancaster Clean Water Partners determine which projects to support through a competitive grant process, while the Lancaster County Community Foundation manages the financial aspects of the fund.

“The intention is to be a catalyst for collaboration and clean water projects,” Smedley said.

Since the Clean Water Fund was created in 2019, grant recipients have installed riparian forest buffers along waterways, implemented dump rock streambank stabilization projects, created rain gardens, and worked to educate future teachers about issues impacting local watersheds.

A 2019 Clean Water Fund project involved stream restoration work and planting a riparian buffer at Climbers Run. (Credit: Donegal Trout Unlimited)

The Clean Water Fund offers three different grant opportunities: a Community Conservation Grant, a Clean Water Implementation Small Grant, and a Clean Water Implementation Large Grant.

“There’s different ways people can interact with clean water, different ways that we feel will improve clean water,” Smedley said.

The Community Conservation Grant focuses on education and outreach. Recipients could hold events or develop informational materials to share with the community, for example.

The Clean Water Implementation grants focus on the execution of projects that will improve and protect water. The small grant covers more local, less expensive projects, while the large grant offers more funding for larger-scale initiatives.

Applicants must represent a 501(c)(3) organization or a municipality, and their projects must benefit Lancaster County, explains Alma Felix, program officer at the Lancaster County Community Foundation.

However, organizations outside of Lancaster County can still apply for this funding as long as their projects will benefit Lancaster County.

Additionally, if an individual has an idea for a project, or if a business or organization isn’t a 501(c)(3) or municipality but wants to apply for clean water project funding, these grants are not out of reach.

“The Lancaster Clean Water Partners are all about collaboration,” Smedley said. Individuals or businesses can collaborate with 501(c)(3) organizations or municipalities to apply for Clean Water Fund grants.

“We recognize that our goals for clean water can’t be achieved just by one organization,” Smedley said. “We find that collaboration helps to achieve a project. It’s a better project, it’s a more well-rounded project, it affects more people positively.”

As much as possible, Smedley encourages collaboration for these grant-funded undertakings, and she can help interested individuals and organizations make that collaboration happen.

Applicants must have a conversation with Smedley or her colleague Laurel Etter Longnecker, who administers the implementation large grant, before applying for funding. During that conversation, Smedley often helps provide guidance for collaboration.

“With the Clean Water Partners managing the projects and going through applications, they’re able to put together all the different projects,” encouraging “collaboration and not duplication,” Felix said.

The deadline to apply for the Community Conservation Grant and the Clean Water Implementation Small Grant is July 26. Applications for the Clean Water Implementation Large Grant are accepted on a rolling basis until all funds are distributed.

More information about the Clean Water Fund can be found on the Lancaster Clean Water Partners website and the Lancaster County Community Foundation website. Donations to the Clean Water Fund can be made online here.