Researchers from universities in the University of Wisconsin System examined worldwide issues facing water usage this weekend, citing several local cases of contaminated water as cause for concern.
Researchers from UW-Stevens Point, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison participated in the conference sponsored by the Wisconsin division of the American Water Resources Association.
UW global environmental health professor Jonathan Patz gave a presentation on the issue of water safety.
Patz said water safety issues are becoming a larger problem worldwide as of late and pose a major challenge when it comes to climate change. His presentation to the AWRA took an in-depth look at how extreme rainfall has a high potential to invoke massive climate change.
From minor damages to extremes such as droughts or floods, he said public health was in harm’s way from the changes happening in the water supply.
Patz also advocated for its importance in the world today. While the United States has much higher water quality than other countries worldwide, people should not be taking their water supply for granted.
Speaking on local terms, Patz said Wisconsinites routinely drink contaminated water. Places such as Door County, Wis. face natural difficulties when it comes to clean water. Also, the small but abundant fissures in the northern Wisconsin region can cause damage to septic fields, leaking contaminants into the supply.
Overall, Patz said the conference stressed the importance of water safety, saying the future of our health depends on a healthy, clean water supply.
The conference, held annually, was aimed at water challenges both large and small, said AWRA President-elect Bill Selbig, who played a major role in organizing the conference.
Selbig said the specific challenges addressed at the conference mainly dealt with water quantity and quality, as well as human health issues in accordance to water safety.
With an attendance of approximately 200, Selbig said the conference was a great success, with researchers from multiple schools and both state and federal agencies that deal with water safety challenges in the UW System in attendance.
Selbig also said among the researchers in attendance were officials from the state Legislature. He stressed their importance at the conference, saying to solve the problems facing water today it would take a great deal of law passing.
The benefit to having legislators in direct contact with presenters and researchers was so they could have an in-depth look at the research being done, Selbig said. To have new water policies made, the science of the researchers was very important.
Because the research was from an unbiased group, Selbig said the lawmakers are able to accurately make decisions on future policies.
Patz said it will be up to the lawmakers to decide what laws on water safety will be passed based on the information the AWRA presented.