COLUMBUS, Ohio (HwO) – An unprecedented coalition of Ohio water stakeholders has issued its strategic plan for maintaining and strengthening the state’s water resources. The Healthy Water Ohio (HwO) coalition’s recommendations aim to preserve Ohio’s valuable water assets for those who rely on them for consumption, recreation, food production and commerce.
The HwO plan identifies specific needs in the areas of policy, research, infrastructure and education. It also proposes the creation of a public-private Ohio Water Trust, funded at $250 million annually to help enact the plan’s recommendations. A portion of the trust funding would be accrued through the sale of state bonds. The full report is available at HealthyWaterOhio.org.
The Healthy Water Ohio coalition received input from more than 200 individuals and organizations with diversified interests in Ohio water. Its 16-member steering committee represents conservation, business, universities, water suppliers, agriculture, human health and others. Over its 21 month effort, the coalition hosted dozens of fact finding events and discussion meetings, heard from subject matter experts, engaged with government leaders and collected public input via a statewide survey of more than 1,000 Ohio citizens.
The report’s policy plan emphasizes the value of Ohio’s existing watershed districts and recommends voluntary water quality and quantity management practices, encourages incentives and collaboration, calls for equitable and reasonable regulations and advocates for improved coordination among government agencies.
The HwO plan’s research proposals include identifying knowledge gaps, establishing a formal Ohio water research group and improving coordination of research data.
The coalition agreed that significant financial resources will be needed to sustainably meet current and future water needs and enhance the state’s economy and quality of life. The proposed Ohio Water Trust would be governed by a diverse stakeholder board, which will identify and support projects that will improve water quality, reduce stormwater and other flooding, enhance agricultural nutrient management, reduce drainage maintenance and dredging costs, assist voluntary regulatory compliance and enhance habitat and recreational use while meeting other societal values. The projected $250 million in annual funding could come from water quality trades, agriculture and business funding, government bond sales, water user fees, a portion of boating and fishing license fees, philanthropic contributions and other sources.
With its strategic plan released, the Healthy Water Ohio coalition now intends to prioritize and pursue its recommendations. The group estimates many parts of the plan will take decades to accomplish while others can begin immediately.
Editors: following are comments about the report from members of the HwO coalition.
Larry Fletcher, Lake Erie Shores & Islands
“Clean, abundant water is critical to the well-being of Ohio’s residents and also to the nearly 200 million visitors the state welcomes each year. These visitors generate annual spending of $31 billion and $5.8 billion in taxes, and the businesses they support employ more than 400,000. The Healthy Water Ohio report creates a roadmap that will keep the necessary focus on efforts to protect Ohio’s water resources.”
Josh Knights, The Nature Conservancy in Ohio
“The Healthy Water Ohio collaboration has brought fresh insight and renewed energy to Ohio’s most valuable natural resource – abundant fresh water. The Nature Conservancy is proud to have contributed to this discussion by bringing new approaches to understanding and solving water quality problems that we and others have demonstrated in nutrient-challenged watersheds around the world.”
Ann Aquillo, Scotts Miracle-Gro
“Gardeners are dedicated to the environment and understand the importance of water to all living things. Through our product innovation and consumer education and outreach, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is committed to improving water quality and conservation. As the trusted partner of outdoor enthusiasts all across the globe, we support the efforts of the Healthy Water Ohio initiative to ensure Ohio has abundant, clean water for many years to come.”
Mindy Bankey, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
“Ohio’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts have achieved great conservation successes on the land and water throughout the last 70+ years due to partnerships focused on working together. Healthy Water Ohio is another great effort that we are pleased to be a part of. Water quality and quantity challenges facing Ohio are huge issues – but as a result of the diversity and focus of the stakeholders involved in this collaboration, we have developed a strategy aimed to address these challenges to further benefit the state and its constituencies.”
Chris Henney, Ohio AgriBusiness Association
“Ohioans have a lot at stake when it comes to our water! Healthy Water Ohio’s mission to address water quality and water quantity issues through a partnership of diverse stakeholders fits with our commitment to utilizing Ohio’s natural resources in a sustainable manner. We are proud to be a part of this endeavor.”
Dick Poe, Farm Credit Mid-America
“In agricultural circles we continue to talk about the need to be more collaborative and transparent in how we all do business in the industry. I think this is just another good example of how effective that process can be when we appeal to many to solve problems. In this case, the ‘many’ were a very diverse group that sometimes sit on the opposite side of the table on agricultural issues. In the beginning discussions of the work here, we spent a good deal of time talking about this not being an agricultural solution but instead a solution that was led by the ag community.”
Frank Phelps, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association
“With the wide range of occupations and interests on the Healthy Water Ohio steering committee, I was impressed that there was no finger pointing or blaming anyone for the water quality problems. Everyone realized that we have water quality problems and worked together to try and find answers and solutions.”
Tadd Nicholson, Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association
“A variety of organizations continue to examine the many variables and contributors to water quality. Healthy Water Ohio’s collaborative approach helped channel many efforts into common goals and solutions. Clean and healthy water is everyone’s business, and by working together we will sustainably enhance Ohio’s bodies of water.”
Steve Hirsch, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation
“The diversity of viewpoints brought together through Healthy Water Ohio has allowed us to create a comprehensive strategy that will benefit both the economy and quality of life for all Ohioans. This report will be a roadmap for assuring that our water and food production resources are preserved and strengthened. I’m proud that Ohio Farm Bureau initiated this important coalition and am grateful for the valuable contributions of all its members.”
Terry McClure, Ohio Soybean Council
“Water is essential to us all. The key to finding answers to the challenges we face in water quality is ensuring that every industry, not just agriculture, is talking with each other and sharing ideas. Healthy Water Ohio is an excellent example of the commitment that farmers and all stakeholders have to lead the way and find long-term solutions.”
Ann Gallagher, HwO facilitator, Gallagher Consulting Group
“As a facilitator, I have the opportunity to work with many groups and organizations. HwO is a best practice case study for collaboration of widely diverse stakeholders working together to find solutions. By putting egos and personal agendas aside, the members of HwO listened, analyzed, and created recommendations about how to protect and preserve Ohio’s water resources to benefit all Ohioans. Bravo!”
COLUMBUS, Ohio (HwO) – Safe drinking water is Ohioans’ No. 1 environmental priority, according to a survey sponsored by Healthy Water Ohio (HwO). Water quality outweighs all other environmental concerns including air quality, waste disposal, quantity of water supplies, land use and coping with weather extremes.
The survey of 1,000 Ohio voters aimed to identify the issues citizens care about relative to the quality, quantity and health of the state’s water resources.
HwO is a statewide coalition committed to developing a long-range plan to sustainably meet current and future water needs while enhancing the economy and quality of life for all Ohioans. Stakeholders include individuals and organizations connected to conservation, business and industry, universities, water suppliers, agriculture and others. The survey was conducted by Saperstein Associates, Inc.
When asked to rate the importance of several water issues, 88 percent of respondents said safe drinking water was very important, ranking it higher than protecting fish and wildlife habitat, repairing aging water systems, providing adequate water for commerce and industry, dealing with natural disasters and preserving water for recreation and tourism.
Half of the voters said Ohio’s water resources are in good condition, 33 percent rated them fair, 7 percent poor and 6 percent excellent. Sixty percent say the quality is holding steady while 17 percent said it is getting worse and 16 percent said it’s getting better. Regarding their tap water, 48 percent rated it good, 28 percent excellent, 17 percent fair and 6 percent poor.
Voters said discharge from factories and industrial plants was the most serious source of pollution followed by trash and litter, runoff from farms, discharge from sanitary sewers, hydraulic fracturing, discharge from septic systems, residential runoff, construction site erosion and wildlife.
Regarding regulations related to water quality, when asked what level of government should take the lead, 54 percent said state government, 30 percent said local and 13 percent said federal. Fifty-five percent favored incentives to reward good environmental behavior while 36 percent favored imposing penalties to punish bad behavior.
Fifty-five percent believe the cost of their water is reasonable, while 23 percent said it’s expensive and 15 percent rated it a bargain. Six out of 10 voters said they would be willing to pay an annual $5 fee to protect Ohio’s water resources.
The survey asked voters to assess their level of concern over seven issues that are currently in the public discussion. Water ranked sixth, trailing health care, the economy, education, crime and roads and bridges. Only public transportation was rated lower than water as a concern.
The results of the survey likely were impacted somewhat by the August shutdown of Toledo’s drinking water system due to toxins from an algal bloom in Lake Erie, which occurred during the survey period. Most survey responses were gathered prior to the event.
The Healthy Water Ohio coalition will use the survey results as a part of its comprehensive study of water resource issues. The coalition is currently soliciting additional input from hundreds of stakeholders and conducting regional focus sessions. The group plans to issue a set of long-term strategy recommendations in the summer of 2015.
Coalition says Collaboration Needed to Address Water Issues
COLUMBUS, Ohio (HwO) – In the wake of the recent crisis in Toledo, the Healthy Water Ohio (HwO) coalition gathered at Grand Lake St. Marys to discuss collaborative solutions to the state’s water resource challenges.
HwO is a uniquely diverse group of stakeholders from conservation, business and industry, universities, water suppliers, agriculture, public health and others. The group, launched publicly in July, is developing a 20- to 30-year management strategy to address water issues for Ohio. One priority issue is toxic algae.
Grand Lake was chosen as the meeting site because, like Lake Erie, it has been challenged by harmful algal blooms. HwO stakeholders learned about the systems being used to keep Grand Lake’s water safe to drink.
Tour participants learned about a “treatment train” system that diverts water from a nearby creek, treats it with alum then releases it to a man-made wetland to naturally filter the water before it enters the lake. Tests show high amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen are being removed from the water before entering the lake, said Milt Miller of the Grand Lake St. Marys Restoration Commission. He said plans are to convert adjacent farmland into wetlands, increasing the amount of water being diverted from the creek. Currently 1.3 million gallons of water are diverted daily to the treatment facility, which is near the lake’s shores and surrounded by housing.
The group also observed a water monitoring station installed in October that measures the amount of nutrients coming from the lake. Laura Johnson with the National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University said preliminary findings show the lake is filtering out a lot of the nutrients on its own.
The group also learned about research on how nutrients leave farm fields and ways to prevent the runoff from occurring.
The Grand Lake tour was one in a series of learning events across the state that will help the coalition’s year-long effort to examine water quality and quantity issues, identify the influences on water resources and explore economic, social and environmental opportunities. The coalition will announce its findings and recommendations in the summer of 2015
The 16-member Healthy Water Ohio steering committee consists of members from Anheuser-Busch, Association of Ohio Health Commissioners, Farm Credit Mid-America, Lake Erie Shores & Islands, Ohio AgriBusiness Association, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio Corn Marketing Program, Ohio Dairy Producers Association, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Ohio League of Conservation Voters, Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program, Ohio State University, Ohio Soybean Council, Scotts Miracle-Gro, The Nature Conservancy and the Village of Ottawa. More than 30 stakeholder groups have engaged in HwO activities to date.
Initiative Ripples Through Airwaves
Healthy Water Ohio was the topic of a recent edition of Town Hall Ohio, the weekly public affairs radio show produced by Ohio Farm Bureau. The show covered the news conference during which HwO was introduced to journalists and the public.
Coalition of Diverse Interests Launches Healthy Water Ohio
COLUMBUS, Ohio (HwO) — One of Ohio’s greatest assets for families, communities and businesses is its abundant supply of water. Healthy Water Ohio (HwO) is a newly announced coalition organized to develop a long-range strategy to protect and enhance the waters of the state.
The coalition first began its work in November, 2013. As part of its introduction to the public, HwO revealed plans for a statewide public poll to gather input that will help guide the coalition’s efforts.
Healthy Water Ohio is a diverse partnership of stakeholders from conservation, business and industry, universities, water suppliers, agriculture and others who will lead development of a 20- to 30-year management strategy to address water issues for Ohio.
The poll data will contribute to HwO’s year-long study to examine issues of concern regarding water quality and quantity, identify the influences on water resources and explore economic, social and environmental opportunities. The coalition will announce its findings and recommendations in the summer of 2015.
Ohioans consume more than 11 billion gallons of water each day for personal and business use and enjoy more than 60,000 miles of rivers, streams and lake shoreline and more than 125,000 lakes, reservoirs and ponds. The economic impacts of business, tourism and other water uses is in the tens of billions of dollars.
These valuable resources are at risk from growing personal and business demands, new land uses, changing weather patterns and other social, environmental and political challenges.
16-member steering committee will guide HwO’s activities. Committee members are from Anheuser-Busch, Association of Ohio Health Commissioners, Farm Credit Mid-America, Lake Erie Shores & Islands, Ohio AgriBusiness Association, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio Corn Marketing Program, Ohio Dairy Producers Association, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Ohio League of Conservation Voters, Ohio State University, Ohio Soybean Council, Scotts Miracle-Gro, The Nature Conservancy and the Village of Ottawa.
Thirty stakeholder organizations are participating in the initiative so far with additional groups expected to become engaged. They will operate in working groups to focus on specific subjects and provide detailed input to the steering committee.
HwO stakeholders and resource personnel will hold a series of learning events throughout the state. To learn more about these events or to become part of the initiative, contact HwO technical advisor Dr. Larry Antosch of Ohio Farm Bureau Federation at [email protected].