Public Policy Forum Blog

PPF Pearl: The Oil of the 21st Century

Southeastern Wisconsin’s water is in the news this fall – as a commodity coveted in the west, as a weapon in the regional conflicts over development, as a potential asset to improve our economic competitiveness, and today again as a diminishing resource in Lake Michigan. All of this makes it worthwhile to revisit the findings of the Forum’s water study that concluded last year.

Our research drew some important conclusions about water resource management. We reported the following:

“Unlike counties and villages, water knows no boundaries, making management of this asset extremely complex…We face urgent problems, such as dropping water tables and deteriorating quality. Jurisdictional overlaps, policy gaps, and lack of information hamper solutions. Leaders must think strategically and regionally about managing water resources.”

Our advisory panel called for an integrated water strategy that recognizes the relationship between surface waters and groundwater, one that addresses quality and quantity, links to other types of planning and is grounded in scientific data that might ultimately lead to a “no-net loss” concept of replenishing the water we use.

The attention our water draws will increase dramatically as we get deeper into the 21st century, and the news will continue to underscore the importance of our behaving regionally and strategically. The urgency of cooperation in Southeastern Wisconsin – and within the larger Great Lakes region -- seems to be accelerating.