The Importance of Clear Water
The Value of Clean Water
Clean water is a precious resource. During community survey efforts from across west-central Wisconsin, area residents have consistently identified groundwater and surface water as the top local resources deserving of the highest levels of protection.
Residents, businesses, and communities of the Eau Claire River Watershed rely upon our surface waters for agriculture, industry, utilities, flood control, fire protection, outdoor recreation, tourism, aesthetic beauty, and wildlife habitat. And, as discussed previously, our surface waters are inexorably linked with our groundwater and drinking water systems. A healthy water cycle is critical to life and our ecosystem.
So, what is the real cost of pollutant loading, erosion, and the loss of clean water on our streams, rivers, and lakes? To date, no such studies have been performed for the Eau Claire River Watershed, making it difficult to quantify such impacts. We know that degraded water quality (e.g., algae blooms, poor fishing, aesthetics) can make our surface waters unappealing for homeowners and for recreation. Blue-Green Algae and E. Coli have the potential to cause serious illness or even death.
Some of the real costs of erosion and poor water quality include...
Increased Runoff, Pollutant Loading and Lower Agricultural Yields - Healthy soils means healthy waters. Land management practices that contribute to soil health improves the infiltration of precipitation and reduces run-off, thereby keeping the top soil in place, decreasing pollutant loading and increasing agricultural yields over the long term.
Lower Property Values (and Tax Base) - Our lakes and larger rivers, in particular, are popular for residential development. But, a shoreland property has less value to potential homebuyers if algae blooms (or other pollutants) prevent fishing and swimming during a large part of the summer or if sediment loading is limiting where you can boat.
Decreased Tourism - Tourism and spending by seasonal homeowners are a significant part of the economy within the watershed. Tourists are attracted by clean water for fishing, paddlesports, boating, swimming/tubing, and aesthetic beauty. This is reflected by the fact that the most of the county parks within the watershed are located along the rivers and lakes.
Taxpayer and Opportunity Costs - As a society, we are spending millions each year in “clean-up costs” due to pollutant loading. These costs range from education, monitoring, and enforcement to algae removal, aeration systems, and dredging. Greater emphasis is needed to address the root causes of water quality pollution.