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.
“Water plays a big role for farmers in Ohio but it is a resource often taken for granted until we don’t have enough in a drought, or we have too much in a flood, or there is another problem — then we start to talk about water. It is an abundant resource that contributes to the quality life in Ohio,” said Steve Hirsch, Ohio Farm Bureau president. “Over the last few years we have dealt with challenges to our water resources, but we have taken a piecemeal approach without a broader goal. We needed a broader perspective to help us understand the problem. HwO is a proactive initiative to develop recommendations about water quality challenges and opportunities. We don’t have all of the answers, we don’t even know all of the questions, but we want to take a comprehensive look at this most vital of resources for Ohioans.”
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.
A 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 Larry Antosch of Ohio Farm Bureau Federation at email@example.com.