A coalition of Ohio farm, industry, government and environmental groups is rolling out a poll next week to assess which water issues are most important to the public.
The new group is called Healthy Water Ohio or HwO. Its mission is to improve water supply, quality and treatment.
The group’s steering committee will use the poll and focus groups to plan how to resolve Ohio water problems within the next 20-30 years, said John Stark, freshwater director for The Nature Conservancy.
Because the eight counties along Lake Erie generates $38 billion in tourism for Ohio each year, HwO is concerned about water shortages, said Larry Fletcher,the executive director of Lake Erie Shores & Islands, a travel agency that belongs to the coalition.
“Ohioan consumers may have to spend tax dollars on water treatment,” said Fletcher.
HwO is also worried about the rate at which water is consumed, said Larry Antosch, the senior director of environmental policy for Ohio Farm Bureau and the coalition’s technical adviser. Industrial production and electrical power use most of the water and alternative energy sources will be discussed.
“Water withdrawn is 10-20 percent consumption, so we need to make sure there is an adequate supply,” said Antosch. “We may look at extracting oil or the cooling water aspect in the future.”
Sandy Bihn, WaterKeeper of the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association, said that Lake Erie is most vulnerable to water shortages and algae blooms. Farm practices that cause them should be the coalition’s top priority, she said.
“Lake Erie is an indication how it’s getting worse because it’s shallow,” Bihn said. “I wish they were investing in policies that protect resources. It would help if there was something in the ditches that would capture nutrients or manure run off before they enter Lake Erie.”
The steering committee plans to meet two to three times a year. The findings and recommendations will be announced by summer 2015, Stark said.
Members of the new group include representatives of these organizations:
Association of Ohio Health Commissioners
Environmental Defense Fund
Farm Credit Mid-America
Muskingum Conservancy District
Ohio Aggregates and Industrial Minerals Association
Ohio Agribusiness Association
Ohio Cattlemen’s Association
Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association
Ohio Dairy Producers Association
Ohio Farm Bureau Federation
Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
Ohio League of Conservation Voters
Ohio Livestock Coalition
Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association
Ohio Pork Producers Council
Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association
Ohio Rural Water Association
Ohio Sheep Improvement Association
Ohio Soft Drink Association
Ohio Soybean Council
Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Ohio State University Extension
Ohio State University Office of Research
Ohio State University Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center
Price Farms Organics
The Nature Conservancy
United Producers, Inc.
Village of Ottawa