In a relatively “water-rich” place like Wisconsin, it is hard to believe more than 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water and that, without swift corrective action, more than half the world’s population will face water shortages in the next 10 years.
As we celebrate World Water Day (March 22nd), it’s good to pause and think about the many ways that water touches our lives in Wisconsin and what we can do to ensure we will always have a safe, reliable supply.
Thanks to an almost “hidden” system of water mains and pipes, clean water is available in our homes 24/7 for drinking, cooking, bathing and making that indispensable morning cup of coffee. And water is at the heart of some of Wisconsin’s biggest companies from A.O. Smith to Veolia and MillerCoors.
Where would Wisconsin Dells be without water? Or our other popular tourist destinations like Door County, Minocqua and the Apostle Islands? Fishing alone accounts for about $1.6 billion in direct expenditures in Wisconsin according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s most recent hunting and fishing survey.
Water is a fixed asset. If we use it wisely, we can ensure it will continue to meet our needs and the needs of the many other plants and animals with which we share our planet.
Wisconsin is playing an important role in water stewardship. Milwaukee is the North American headquarters for the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), a partnership that is developing a voluntary global standard for water use and exploring a certification program, similar to forest or building certification, to encourage utilities, manufacturers, agriculture and other big water users to use water as efficiently and sustainably as possible.
The Nature Conservancy and the Milwaukee Water Council are hosting the North America initiative, and it is supported by several Wisconsin corporations including A.O. Smith, Badger Meter, MillerCoors and Veolia.
A first draft standard was released for field trials, public review and comment at the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, France, last week. AWS is now soliciting public comment and will soon start holding public meetings and field trials across the globe. The goal for finalizing the international water stewardship standard is mid-2013. You can learn more at allianceforwaterstewardship.com.
Encouraging corporations and utilities to use water more sustainably is vital, but we can all take steps to conserve water and use it wisely. We can protect the forests, wetlands and grasslands that help keep our water clean. We can buy low-flow and water efficient appliances and quickly repair leaky pipes and faucets. You’ll find more water-friendly tips at www.nature.org/wisconsinwater.
Water stewardship starts with each of us. This year, celebrate World Water Day by adopting one new “water-wise” habit. You’ll save money and help conserve the most vital substance on our planet.
Mary Jean Huston
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.