For Immediate Release
Sept. 3, 2015
COLUMBUS, Ohio (HwO) – An unprecedented coalition of Ohio water stakeholders has issued its strategic plan for maintaining and strengthening the state’s water resources. The Healthy Water Ohio (HwO) coalition’s recommendations aim to preserve Ohio’s valuable water assets for those who rely on them for consumption, recreation, food production and commerce.
The HwO plan identifies specific needs in the areas of policy, research, infrastructure and education. It also proposes the creation of a public-private Ohio Water Trust, funded at $250 million annually to help enact the plan’s recommendations. A portion of the trust funding would be accrued through the sale of state bonds. The full report is available at HealthyWaterOhio.org.
The Healthy Water Ohio coalition received input from more than 200 individuals and organizations with diversified interests in Ohio water. Its 16-member steering committee represents conservation, business, universities, water suppliers, agriculture, human health and others. Over its 21 month effort, the coalition hosted dozens of fact finding events and discussion meetings, heard from subject matter experts, engaged with government leaders and collected public input via a statewide survey of more than 1,000 Ohio citizens.
The report’s policy plan emphasizes the value of Ohio’s existing watershed districts and recommends voluntary water quality and quantity management practices, encourages incentives and collaboration, calls for equitable and reasonable regulations and advocates for improved coordination among government agencies.
The HwO plan’s research proposals include identifying knowledge gaps, establishing a formal Ohio water research group and improving coordination of research data.
The coalition agreed that significant financial resources will be needed to sustainably meet current and future water needs and enhance the state’s economy and quality of life. The proposed Ohio Water Trust would be governed by a diverse stakeholder board, which will identify and support projects that will improve water quality, reduce stormwater and other flooding, enhance agricultural nutrient management, reduce drainage maintenance and dredging costs, assist voluntary regulatory compliance and enhance habitat and recreational use while meeting other societal values. The projected $250 million in annual funding could come from water quality trades, agriculture and business funding, government bond sales, water user fees, a portion of boating and fishing license fees, philanthropic contributions and other sources.
With its strategic plan released, the Healthy Water Ohio coalition now intends to prioritize and pursue its recommendations. The group estimates many parts of the plan will take decades to accomplish while others can begin immediately.
Editors: Following are comments about the report from members of the HwO coalition:
Larry Fletcher, Lake Erie Shores & Islands
“Clean, abundant water is critical to the well-being of Ohio’s residents and also to the nearly 200 million visitors the state welcomes each year. These visitors generate annual spending of $31 billion and $5.8 billion in taxes, and the businesses they support employ more than 400,000. The Healthy Water Ohio report creates a roadmap that will keep the necessary focus on efforts to protect Ohio’s water resources.”
Josh Knights, The Nature Conservancy in Ohio
“The Healthy Water Ohio collaboration has brought fresh insight and renewed energy to Ohio’s most valuable natural resource – abundant fresh water. The Nature Conservancy is proud to have contributed to this discussion by bringing new approaches to understanding and solving water quality problems that we and others have demonstrated in nutrient-challenged watersheds around the world.”
Ann Aquillo, Scotts Miracle-Gro
“Gardeners are dedicated to the environment and understand the importance of water to all living things. Through our product innovation and consumer education and outreach, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is committed to improving water quality and conservation. As the trusted partner of outdoor enthusiasts all across the globe, we support the efforts of the Healthy Water Ohio initiative to ensure Ohio has abundant, clean water for many years to come.”
Mindy Bankey, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
“Ohio’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts have achieved great conservation successes on the land and water throughout the last 70+ years due to partnerships focused on working together. Healthy Water Ohio is another great effort that we are pleased to be a part of. Water quality and quantity challenges facing Ohio are huge issues – but as a result of the diversity and focus of the stakeholders involved in this collaboration, we have developed a strategy aimed to address these challenges to further benefit the state and its constituencies.”
Chris Henney, Ohio AgriBusiness Association
“Ohioans have a lot at stake when it comes to our water! Healthy Water Ohio’s mission to address water quality and water quantity issues through a partnership of diverse stakeholders fits with our commitment to utilizing Ohio’s natural resources in a sustainable manner. We are proud to be a part of this endeavor.”
Dick Poe, Farm Credit Mid-America
“In agricultural circles we continue to talk about the need to be more collaborative and transparent in how we all do business in the industry. I think this is just another good example of how effective that process can be when we appeal to many to solve problems. In this case, the ‘many’ were a very diverse group that sometimes sit on the opposite side of the table on agricultural issues. In the beginning discussions of the work here, we spent a good deal of time talking about this not being an agricultural solution but instead a solution that was led by the ag community.”
Frank Phelps, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association
“With the wide range of occupations and interests on the Healthy Water Ohio steering committee, I was impressed that there was no finger pointing or blaming anyone for the water quality problems. Everyone realized that we have water quality problems and worked together to try and find answers and solutions.”
Tadd Nicholson, Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association
“A variety of organizations continue to examine the many variables and contributors to water quality. Healthy Water Ohio’s collaborative approach helped channel many efforts into common goals and solutions. Clean and healthy water is everyone’s business, and by working together we will sustainably enhance Ohio’s bodies of water.”
Steve Hirsch, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation
“The diversity of viewpoints brought together through Healthy Water Ohio has allowed us to create a comprehensive strategy that will benefit both the economy and quality of life for all Ohioans. This report will be a roadmap for assuring that our water and food production resources are preserved and strengthened. I’m proud that Ohio Farm Bureau initiated this important coalition and am grateful for the valuable contributions of all its members.”
Terry McClure, Ohio Soybean Council
“Water is essential to us all. The key to finding answers to the challenges we face in water quality is ensuring that every industry, not just agriculture, is talking with each other and sharing ideas. Healthy Water Ohio is an excellent example of the commitment that farmers and all stakeholders have to lead the way and find long-term solutions.”
Ann Gallagher, HwO facilitator, Gallagher Consulting Group
“As a facilitator, I have the opportunity to work with many groups and organizations. HwO is a best practice case study for collaboration of widely diverse stakeholders working together to find solutions. By putting egos and personal agendas aside, the members of HwO listened, analyzed, and created recommendations about how to protect and preserve Ohio’s water resources to benefit all Ohioans. Bravo!”
CONTACT: Dr. Larry Antosch
HwO Technical Adviser
PHONE: (614) 246-8264
E-MAIL: [email protected]
Editors: The full report is available at HealthyWaterOhio.org.