One of Long Island’s major challenges is that of its fragmented landscape of governmental and civic organizations. This fragmentation runs deep – with 665 government entities alone, according to the Long Island Index, published by the Rauch Foundation. Yet we compete on a regional basis, and many of our most important issues must be tackled regionally. This is especially true with the environment, where combating major impediments to water quality, for instance, requires collaboration to arrive at solutions, build consensus around them, and generate public support.

That’s why the Rauch Foundation helped establish the Long Island Clean Water Partnership, a consortium of organizations committed to collaborating among themselves and among a wide range of stakeholders to implement solutions to reverse the decline in the region’s water quality. The Partnership involves five principal organizations – Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Group for the East End; Long Island Pine Barrens Society; The Nature Conservancy, and Stony Brook University, the Partnership’s scientific affiliate. Since the Partnership’s founding in 2013, each of those organizations has continued its own important work, while agreeing on specific collective priorities for bringing about the restoration of Long Island’s aquifers and surface waters.

The Foundation invested in the Partnership, because we believe in the value of collaboration, and that value has already borne itself out in numerous ways. Most notably, the Partnership was the driving force behind securing funding in the New York State budget for the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan, which brought together the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, both counties, and the Long Island Regional Planning Council to undertake needed science at the watershed level. More recently, the Partnership played a vital role in highlighting regional priorities, as reflected in the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act, signed by Governor Cuomo on Long Island this past April. 

The Rauch Foundation’s support for the Long Island Clean Water Partnership is part of a broader commitment by the Foundation to partnerships and coalitions as mechanisms for moving the needle on regional change. Other examples relating to the environment on Long Island include the Long Island Sound Funders Collaborative, a consortium of thirteen philanthropies focused on a coordinated approach to grant making in and around the Sound, and the Right Track for Long Island Coalition, representing more than 500,000 Long Islanders working with Governor Cuomo to support the LIRR’s Enhancement Project (the Third Track). In the Chesapeake Bay region in Maryland, the Foundation has also played a principal role in helping to negotiate a merger between three Eastern Shore organizations to form a more powerful water protection presence there.

Nearly five years since its inception, the Long Island Clean Water Partnership is an excellent example of how to fashion regional approaches resulting in real and lasting change. Let’s embrace the model and replicate it on other issues to build a prosperous future for Long Island.