From our spot here in Green Bay on one of our magnificent Great Lakes, it’s 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 water touches our lives in Green Bay 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 that draw water from Lake Michigan, clean water is available in our homes 24/7 for drinking, cooking, bathing and making that indispensable morning cup of coffee. And we’re not the only fortunate ones— more than 10 million people get their drinking water from Lake Michigan.
Green Bay is a hot spot for sport fishing and is also popular with sailors, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts. All of these activities depend on water.
But the health of Green Bay’s waters is at risk due to wetland loss, invasive species like zebra mussels, urban and agricultural runoff and shoreland development.
A group of citizens, public agencies, universities, the Oneida Nation and non-profit organizations including The Nature Conservancy have joined together to restore the health of the bay for people and nature.
We are protecting and restoring coastal wetlands, which help clean polluted water, protect our shorelines from erosion and serve as nurseries for fish and other aquatic life.
We are addressing the declining populations of key fish like northern pike by restoring access to their wetland spawning habitat.
We’re also eradicating Phragmites, a tall invasive grass, from beaches and marshes where it is displacing native plants and reducing habitat for wildlife and recreation areas for people.
While all of these actions are vital, each of us can also take additional small steps to make a big difference for the bay. We can plant rain gardens to help absorb storm water. After fishing, we can empty our bait buckets on land, rather than in the water so we don’t transport invasive species. And we can keep leaves and grass clippings out of the streets so they don’t end up “fertilizing” the bay.
Restoring the health of Green Bay’s waters starts with each of us. This year, celebrate World Water Day by adopting one new “water-friendly” habit. When you do, you’ll help conserve the most vital substance on our planet.
You can learn more about restoring the health of Green Bay and find more water-friendly tips at www.nature.org/wisconsinwater.
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.
Nicole Van Helden
Director of Conservation-Green Bay Watershed
The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin
Green Bay, Wisconsin