Water Star Wisconsin was launched on Earth Day and honors cities, villages, towns, and counties that have taken important steps to protect surface water and groundwater such as: strengthening stormwater controls, ensuring water quality, protecting habitats, and encouraging residents to conserve water.
Importance of the Program
Many facets add up to make our community a Water Star. There are three basic components of the Water Star Program and several reasons why they’re important to Wisconsin.
Quality - Many Wisconsin lakes, rivers and streams suffer from degraded water quality. Reducing polluted runoff is critical to halting the decline of water quality and in protecting high quality waters. Additionally, keeping pollutants out of water is cheaper and better than trying to remove it later. Clean surface waters play a key role in human health, recreation and local economies; making municipalities better places for people to live and businesses to succeed.
Quantity - Historically, only 4% of rain water ran off into lakes, streams, and rivers. Now, in urban areas, more than 35-80% runs off with great speed and force greatly impacting our aquatic environments. Even in rural areas, water runs off much quicker than it did in the past due to ditching and tiling.
Habitat - Drained wetlands, straightened streams, concrete drainage ways, sedimentation, dredging, and the removal of shoreline vegetation and in-water woody debris have severely degraded fish and wildlife habitats throughout Wisconsin.
Quality - Human-generated and natural contaminates impact drinking water in many areas of Wisconsin. Actions can be taken to protect drinking water quality and (where the contamination is naturally occurring), to protect the consumers of that water.
Quantity - Wisconsin is a water-rich state, but in some areas there is a shortage of groundwater either due to excess pumping or due to naturally low water-bearing rock. When shortages occur, human use must be adjusted to safeguard streams, wetlands, or springs.
A healthy community provides recreational opportunities for its citizenry while protecting the natural resources that people enjoy and desire.
Things River Falls Has Done to Become a Gold Water Star Community
River Falls has:
- Become proactive in storm water management measures, our community requirements exceed state requirements
- Added a water resources engineer to our staff
- Added the equivalent of time of one full time street department worker, dedicated to storm water tasks
- Hosted extensive public education including tours, brochures, demonstration sites, and various presentations
- Implemented an illicit discharge response and clean up program
- Limited the use of fertilizers and herbicides on city properties
- Performed soil tests to determine amount of fertilizer needed
- Promoted recreational use of the river with festivals
- Provided public access areas as well as walking trails along river
- Encouraged, promoted, and demonstrated green infrastructure improvements
- Implemented a comprehensive street sweeping program
- Worked with dentists and other businesses to reduce heavy metals such as waste mercury
- Passed lawn watering ordinances and other water conservation efforts