Broad water challenges require broad coalitions, which is why Ohio stakeholders have joined together to form the Health Water Ohio (HwO) coalition to take a comprehensive approach at water quality challenges and opportunities.
Steve Hirsch, president of Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and a Ross County produce grower, explained the Farm Bureau has been at the forefront of trying to address water quality issues, but also didn’t know what everyone else was doing or their perspective. He said the 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.
Hirsch said the initial group felt it was important to develop a long-term vision, even though it’s evident short-term issues will also need to be addressed. He explained it’s important to start looking at getting everything in motion, as it takes time to get all the pieces together and set the platform for improvement.
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 and will be conducted over the next few weeks.
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.
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.
Larry Fletcher, executive director of Lake Erie Shores & Islands, said the wide interests represented on the committee are key to the success of the committee. Some potential topics to be focused on include challenges to water quality; infrastructure needs and challenges such as aging locks and dams and public water suppliers.
Initial 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.