Creating the Wisconsin Water Agenda

Aug 18, 2020 | Water Policy, Wisconsin Water Agenda

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 WaterWays newsletterDownload a PDF of the full Newsletter.

A note from Mary Ellen Vollbrecht, Board Chair and Core Team member

I’ve spent my life working on—and playing in—Wisconsin’s waters. As a kid I routinely risked scolding for coming home soaking wet after playing in Fish Creek in Ozaukee County. The other stream of my childhood memories is the concrete-lined Kinnickinnic River on South 7th Street in Milwaukee.

No matter where, rivers and lakes drew me in. They led to my career, mostly at the Department of Natural Resources, working to protect water.

Today, even in water-rich Wisconsin, we confront serious water issues from nitrate in drinking water, flooding, over-pumping, and emerging contaminants like PFAS. These are big problems. They must be addressed to protect our health and our waters.

It’s not that we haven’t tried to fix these water issues. Laws have been passed and money has been spent. But the water problems we are facing now demonstrate serious gaps and flaws in our laws and programs. Our laws were largely passed in response to single water problems.

The result is that we do not have a comprehensive or integrated system of water management.

Since its inception, River Alliance has worked to empower people to protect our waters, so I was excited when the River Alliance initiated the Wisconsin Water Agenda project.

I’ve been delighted to serve on the Core Team for the project. Over the last eight months the Core Team, River Alliance staff, and others have developed 12 elements to describe a system for achieving our human health and ecological goals.

Now the hard work begins—putting the elements into operation.

We look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead to make this new model real.

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