A Moment Becomes a Movement
The content below is a selected article from our summer 2019 WaterWays newsletter. Download a PDF of the full Newsletter.
By Raj Shukla
Water is having a moment, as they say. A Governor from one party has declared it the “Year of Clean Drinking Water.” The legislature, controlled by another party, has convened a series of Water Quality Task Force hearings across the state.
Could there be consensus on the urgency to protect and restore water? We’re hopeful, if not entirely optimistic, despite the clear risks of doing too little.
River Alliance members can ensure the “moment” for water turns into a movement. Part of doing that is coming together, for formal and informal events, paddles, public hearings, farm tours, meetings with elected officials, and even a slightly wacky parade on an urban river. We are going to need each other to accomplish the work that lies ahead.
A Statewide Asset
Though different water issues impact each of our communities around the state, we can agree there is much to be done and there’s no better investment than our waters.
Recent studies suggest 4 in 10 wells in parts of Wisconsin are contaminated by farm waste. Families in the Driftless are still recovering from the devastating floods of 2018. Businesses that depend on summer tourists have to contend with lakes covered in algae, and fish kills that numbered over 100 in 2018. To this day, children in 80 Wisconsin communities continue to drink water that flows through lead pipes.
The price of inaction is steep. Local industry depends on clean, abundant water. Agriculture is among the largest industries in the state, pumping $88.3 billion into the economy while providing 413,500 jobs to grow, harvest and process food. Our water-reliant tourism industry adds $21.6 billion to the economy, $1.5 billion in state and local government revenue, and another 199,073 Wisconsin jobs.
Governor Evers proposed significant investments for important oversight and infrastructure. The legislature took a much more modest approach in their version of the budget. Neither have laid out a vision that’s truly big enough to safeguard Wisconsin’s clean water future.
Coming Together For Wisconsin’s Waters
We know that many Wisconsin residents agree. River Alliance members and many others across the state are speaking up to share their personal stories and ideas to move us forward. At Water Quality Task Force hearings that have already taken place, members of the public told stories about the need for Wisconsin to put water—and people—first.
We’ve included a real testimony in this newsletter as well as information on how you can get involved. Each account is unique, but the message is the same—Wisconsin must do better and we deserve real leadership on water from elected officials.
We’ve also spoken with many folks at our River Rat Chat events around the state. Your passion and commitment for protecting Wisconsin’s waters is clear. And it underscores our long‑time commitment to bring people, local watershed groups, businesses and new communities together to act on our common cause to protect and restore water.
A challenge is best tackled with a great team. Will you join us to create a Wisconsin where we put water first?