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With Milwaukee's proximity to Lake Michigan and world-class water research, why don't we have clean water?

Tony Evers Chats About Wisconsin's 'Year Of Clean Drinking Water'

Gov. Tony Evers during his first biennial budget address at the State Capitol.

Across Wisconsin, tens of thousands of people don’t trust the water that comes out of their tap — due to lead, agricultural runoff or industrial pollution.

To address water quality, there’s $70 million in Gov. Tony Evers’ budget and he's declared 2019 "the year of clean drinking water." However, some in the Republican state Legislature say too much of that money would go to Milwaukee to remove lead water lines, neglecting other areas of the state.

» See More Project Milwaukee: Great Lakes, Troubled Waters Reports
Evers shares some insight on Wisconsin's year of clean drinking water:

Water quality concerns go beyond lead pipes in Milwaukee

The year of clean drinking water isn't just about lead pipes in Milwaukee. When areas grow, and even some suburban Milwaukee areas, there are problems with farm runoff and urban runoff.

“We're putting significant resources in to make sure that not only we have ways of fixing lead service lines, but also make sure that we focus our efforts on targeting runoff management that impacts our suburban people and rural people in the state of Wisconsin,” Evers explains.

Also, he says they would invest in infrastructure practices to help reduce runoff and similar types of pollution due to agriculture enterprises.

READ: Are Giant Dairy Farms Dangerous For Wisconsin's Waters?

Clean drinking water shouldn’t be a partisan issue

Evers wants to direct lots of financial resources into making sure Wisconsinites have access to clean drinking water - but he doesn’t necessarily have a Legislature on board with that.

“We’ll continue to fight. It does concern me and it should concern your listeners, too. People say, ‘Geeze, we don’t think it’s fair that we’re putting all this money into these urban areas … because it doesn’t impact us,’ " Evers says. "Well, who can be for having kids drinking water that has lead in it?”

"Who can be for having kids drinking water that has lead in it?"

A people’s budget. That’s how Evers describes his budget.

“People in Wisconsin want to make sure that they can drink their water safely. It should not be a Republican or Democratic issue,” he says.

READ: What Is Clean Water & Can Wisconsin Achieve It?

This is just the beginning

When you hear that this is the year of clean drinking water, you might think, ‘Oh, these won’t be issues in a year.’ But that’s not the case.

Across Wisconsin, Evers says people may need to re-drill their wells, change their wells or dig deeper due to water pollution. Even with the financial assistance he says is being offered, that’ll take time. And Evers says we need to value that moving forward.

“It can't be just, ‘Well, we're going to fix wells,’ he explains. “We're going to make sure that the runoff is contained. We're making sure that we have good instruments in place to monitor runoff and pollution. But that is something that's going to be ongoing.”

When it comes to valuing clean water, Evers thinks we can all learn from the tribal nations in Wisconsin.

“They have a cultural and spiritual respect for making sure that the water stays clean and we value it," he explains.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
Lauren Sigfusson
Lauren became WUWM's digital producer in July 2018.
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