We’re water rich in Southeast Wisconsin. The Midwest contains 20% of the world’s freshwater supply and, in a world where dwindling water resources are a growing concern, the city of Milwaukee has recently staked its economic future on being a “World Water Hub”. However, resources are only as sustainable as the dedication of individuals to use and manage them wisely. That’s why Riveredge is devoted to being an area leader in water education and outreach.
It’s hard not to see a bright water future in the faces of young scientists pulling on waders and splashing into the Milwaukee River to examine phosphate and PH levels. For 27 years, Riveredge has led Testing the Waters, a partnership program with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewer District (MMSD) that brings together local organizations and schools to teach students the importance of water quality and provide them with the tools and training to perform the same water quality tests as professionals. Over these past 27 years, 34,000 students have become scientists in their own watersheds and come to real world conclusions about the impacts of land use.
A similar impact can be found in our River Connections partnership with the Urban Ecology Center. After learning about and testing the quality of the Milwaukee River at UEC, an urban site, Milwaukee students get the chance to come to Riveredge and perform the same tests in a rural stretch of the same river. Through this program, students get a unique opportunity to study the interconnectedness of the natural world firsthand and examine how impacts of human activity in one part of an ecosystem can have on another part miles away. This broadening of horizons serves students well not just as future potential scientists but as future citizens of a globally connected world.
It’s not just students we’re working to reach. Our sturgeon reintroduction project, a partnership with the Wisconsin DNR, serves not only to help bring back a vital species to our waterways but also to celebrate the positive effect we can all have on our natural world when we dedicate the time and effort. In a time when most environmental news is about destruction and the negative impact of humans, seeing thousands of people gather on the banks of Lake Michigan at our annual Sturgeon Festival at Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee to celebrate a prehistoric fish and the importance of healthy waterways is certainly something worth celebrating.