1000 Friends of Wisconsin today released a survey of public opinion and knowledge concerning water resources. The survey found that while the public considers the water quality of our rivers and Lake Michigan to be satisfactory or better at this time, they also believe water quality in surface waters and groundwater will become a bigger problem in the coming decade. The survey was done in collaboration with Sweet Water – a partnership of non-profits, local governments and businesses established to achieve healthy and sustainable water resources throughout the Milwaukee River watershed.
According to the survey, the public believes the major sources of water pollution are sewer overflows and industrial wastes, even though the vast majority of water pollution today comes from nonpoint sources such as urban and rural runoff. Both sewer overflows and point sources of pollution have been dramatically reduced in recent decades, with overflows dropping to a fraction of pre-1994 levels.
Based on the survey results, the public feels that their actions do not have an impact water quality nor do they see a role for themselves in helping to protect our water resources. Actually, today the major source of pollution is non-point pollution – the result of a multitude of relatively small actions cumulatively multiplied across the watershed. They range from polluted runoff from parking lots and streets, to careless disposal of pet waste, to removal of natural buffers along our rivers, to excess use of salt for de-icing.
While the findings report that individuals are engaging in behaviors that have a positive impact on water quality and that they are willing to take additional actions to protect water quality, they do not equate these actions with helping to improve water quality.