Wisconsin to protect our surroundings and natural resources from being polluted? Water makes up for seventy-five percent Of earth’s surface and is the most precious natural resource on our planet. Wisconsin has a lot of beautiful lakes and keeping them clean is a collective responsibility of all the citizens. The major water quality problem that Wisconsin faces is the polluted runoff into our lakes, degrading or threatening at least ninety percent of our inland lakes (www. Wackiness’s. Org). Runoff is the excess water that comes from hard surfaces like rooftops, lawns, farms, and other similar surfaces.
When the vegetation is removed and the soil is exposed to raindrops, it washes the fertilizers, manure and other pollutants into the lakes through the ground. The fertilizers, leaves, grass, animal waste and eroded soil which are run off into the lakes are sources of nutrients. These nutrients degrade the water by boosting algae growth on the surface of the water. The increased algae growth results in clouding the surface water which results in lesser light for the plants that grow inside the water bodies.
Lesser light for plants means that the plants don’t synthesize normally which in turn results in lesser oxygen given out by these plants. This lack of oxygen has adverse effects on the aquatic life. The main nutrient in most of the water that is run off into the lakes is Phosphorus. Small amounts of phosphorus are enough to degrade the quality of water in our lakes. Phosphorus is a very active element in many of the fertilizers we use to keep our lawns and gardens green. This same phosphorus when let to run off into lakes blooms the growth of algae which make the lakes thick and cloudy covering the surface of the water green with algae.
The phosphorus also reduces the oxygen in lakes which effects the aquatic life in a bad manner. Excess amount of nutrients when let off into our lakes makes the lakes in accessible for boating, fishing and other recreational purposes and increase the maintenance costs for the lake management groups. One another main cause of the lake water in Wisconsin being polluted is the sediments of soil that are carried into the lakes by the water that is run off. Sediments can be eroded from construction sites, developed areas and cropland.
In addition to the impact the sediment particles can have themselves; sediment runoff can pick up additional pollutants such as metal lakes, debris, toxic and even more phosphorus into our lakes. These sediments make the water turbid, which does not let enough sunlight to penetrate through the surface of the water. This disrupts normal aquatic life and result in fish kills. Turbid water conditions also effect the fish by damaging their gills, which makes it harder for fish to find the food to survive. This makes it impossible for some fish to survive in the lake.
Aquatic insects, which are eaten by a lot of fish, frogs and other shore land animals, find shelter in between the spaces on rocks, cobbles and boulders and these insects play an important role in the food chain. But when the sediments of soil settle in these spaces on the rocks it becomes impossible for these insects to find their shelter. Phosphorus is a common Ingredient in many of the washing detergents that we use at our homes on a regular basis. These detergents have the amount of phosphate labeled on them.
When we use these detergents significant amount of phosphorus is released into the surface water. Wastewater from our sinks, toilets, dish washers and washing machines makes its way into the municipal wastewater treatment plants or our septic tanks. Here this water is cleaned before it is let to flow into the lakes. But the problem is that the phosphorus cannot be removed from this wastewater easily. We can avoid using the detergents that have phosphate in them and go for the products that do not have any phosphorus in them.
This is one step which most of us can take to do our part in protecting the lakes. The government of Wisconsin has passed a few laws that regulate the phosphorus content in the fertilizers we use to keep our lawns and gardens green. The “clean lakes bill” (ABA) was passed in the 2009-2010 legislative session which prohibits the display, sale and use of lawn fertilizers that contain any amount of phosphorus in them with a few exceptions. In 2002, Wisconsin was the first state to take action against the runoff that was being dumped in the lakes.
The state passed a comprehensive policy and rules to reduce the polluted runoff, with significant focus on agricultural runoff. This policy did not go through due to lack of funding. In the 2007-2009 biennial budget the Wisconsin Association of Lakes (WALL) and other coalition of other conservative groups advocated for six million dollars in cost sharing for rammers to make use Of better practices. An additional twenty two million dollars in bond money was approved for building infrastructure to help reduce the runoff into large water bodies.
Denis manure management discharge rules (NOR 243) affect how Wisconsin largest farms (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or Cafes) handle, spread, and store their manure. Cafes make up less than 1% of Wisconsin farms but produce 10% of the manure. Manure runoff has contaminated drinking water, killed fish, and contributes nutrients to our lakes which can lead to chronic algae blooms and declining water quality. In 2006, after a diverse group of stakeholders had participated in a four year long revision process, the DEN proposed revisions to existing NOR 243.
The Wisconsin Association of Lakes was a strong proponent of adopting these important and necessary rules. WALL and other conservation groups fought for these rules to improve drinking water quality, protect fish and wildlife habitat, and preserve water quality. These rules finally became law in March of 2006, after a contentious public hearing and further modifications of the rules by the DEN. This is just a start and we have a very long way to go before we can say that Our lakes are completely clean. These funding increments are just the start and it is good to see the responsible people standing up to this.
How do the lakes being polluted affect us? Can we do anything to slow it down? How have we reached this level in the first place? As we engineers call it, this is a tradeoff. We are damaging our environment for more advancement in science and technology. This is the problem which is faced by most of the countries. So, does being the superior race on earth give us the right to damage our environment and kill other living organisms? In my opinion we would look for long term solutions rather than the short term ones.
For starters we can start awareness campaigns to educate people about the dangers the next generations might face if we keep this continuing. Also, we should take up the responsibility to keep our environment from deteriorating by joining groups that work for this cause and do our bit for environmental protection. We have come a long way forward in terms of technological advancements so it is not impossible for us to find a better way around rather than using fertilizers with dangerous chemicals that cause damage our environment and destabilize the ecosystem.