From: Chloë Bieda
I am a student at WSU, and when I first came to Winona, I instantly fell in love with this place. In comparison to the large Chicago suburb which I call home, the bluffs, lakes, and rivers I’m surrounded by here create an environment that feels both unfamiliar and special. As I spent more time in this community, I came to understand that what makes the area so special also makes it vulnerable, specifically related to our water.
Water quality tests on Lake Winona, the only lake in the Mississippi River-Winona Watershed, show high levels of phosphorus that threaten the lake’s health and our ability to play and fish in the lake. Phosphorus in lakes naturally forms through rocks, soil, living and dead plant organisms and other mineral deposits. Human activities, such as fertilizing lawns, agricultural fields and urban activities, also increase phosphorus concentrations in waterways. And, while phosphorus assists with the growth of plants and animals, too much of it is a serious problem. High phosphorus levels lead to nutrient imbalances and the creation of algae blooms, which create toxins that are harmful to food resources, habitats, animal health and even human health. There are plenty of actions we can take as a community to help address this problem, including joining Healthy Lake Winona. Healthy Lake Winona (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a group of area citizens who work to engage community members in helping to improve our beautiful lake.
Just as important as preventing water contamination is conserving water. Though 71 percent of the Earth is covered with water, only three percent of that water is freshwater, and less than one percent is available for drinking. The benefits of conserving water include savings on water bills, reducing the need for expensive upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities, protection of drinking water resources, and maintaining the health of aquatic environments. Here in Winona we are lucky to be surrounded by plenty of fresh water, so there is less of a sense of urgency than elsewhere — but we should be conserving water nonetheless, reminding ourselves that every drop counts.
With this in mind, Sustain Winona, a partnership of the city, county and our educational institutions, has created a Water Conservation Contest that is open to all residents and businesses in the county. The contest runs from April to August, and awards winners (and randomly-drawn participants) will win cash prizes for their efforts! All you have to do to participate is to reduce your water use individually or as part of a team by completing a series of water-conserving actions. The first place winner wins $750, second place wins $300, third place wins $250, fourth place wins $200, and participants who accumulate 200 points will be automatically entered in a raffle to win $250! If you’re interested in entering or learning more, please visit www.bit.ly/WinonaWater. I hope you’ll join us by signing up today!