Essays

Healing Rivers

Carolyn Lewis

The Milwaukee River Basin, 900 square miles, is made up of the Menomonee, Kinnickinnic, and, of course, the Milwaukee River that runs through the city and into Lake Michigan. The urban-environment and agricultural influence on these rivers prompts the Milwaukee Riverkeeper to give the Basin a “grade” of a C- (2015 Milwaukee River Basin Report Card). The Midwest is known for its beauty and nature, but as of right now our river areas and their wildlife are not where they should be. Recent tests done by United States Geological Survey (USGS) states that “viruses from cattle occurred in 14 percent of the samples collected” from the Milwaukee River and “Human viruses were present in 16 percent of the total number of water samples” taken from their 8-river study. The levels of bacteria, phosphorus, and conductivity in just the Milwaukee River alone is alarming, but reversible with attention and action.

The River Basin contains habitats for endangered and threatened plants and animal species who we do not want to lose from our ecosystem. The first step to protecting and nurturing the biodiversity of our freshwater rivers is awareness. Reconsidering threatening action such as land development, concrete river enclosure, and dams is imperative when we live so close to our rivers. Action is usually haste when it comes to our rivers and it is time the people have more of an idea of what is being done. Projects such as Watermarks by artist Mary Miss, are being implemented to raise conscientiousness and interaction between citizens and their water that surrounds them. This “Living Laboratory” is trying to shine light on the City of Milwaukee’s environmental challenges by manifesting water ‘map pins’ as pole markers that people can interact with an app. Giving information to the people is a step in the right direction for effort towards healthier aquatic and terrestrial habitat. A way that you can help is purchasing and using a personal Rain Barrel. Rain Barrels help ease flooding during storms and stop excess water in the sewer system from getting into our freshwaters. Our freshwater rivers provide beauty, recreation and habitat, it is time to protect them.

Work Cited

USGS. “Human, Cattle Viruses Detected in Some Great Lakes Tributaries.” Human, Cattle Viruses Detected in Some Great Lakes Tributaries. N.p., 2 Mar. 2017.