Water pollution is a problem that needs to be fixed household-by-household, and a new public service campaign aims to teach you how you can help.
Sweet Water (the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust) and Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network (Root-Pike WIN) kicked off a 12-week television advertising campaign that features a puppet, Sparkles the Water Spaniel, “to emphasize bad and good human behavior.” Jeff Cesario, a comedian who lives in Kenosha, does the voice of Sparkles, according to a press release.
“What many residents don’t understand is that anything that washes into storm sewers goes directly into our area rivers and then into Lake Michigan,” explains Susan Greenfield, executive director of the Root-Pike WIN. “That means, whenever it rains – dog poop, lawn fertilizer, grass, leaves, car fluids and any other debris on sidewalks, streets and parking lots flow into the waterways.”
Root-Pike WIN, a nonprofit organization focused on protecting and restoring the Root River and Pike River watersheds, joined forces with Sweet Water, a partnership of communities throughout the Greater Milwaukee Watersheds that wants to mitigate pollution from non-point sources.
And by non-point sources, they mean us.
The advertising campaign is funded by $125,000 in grants from 28 municipalities and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The total negotiated value of the year-one initiative is $250,000 in television advertising and creative development.
“The launch of this campaign is exciting because it represents two water groups and 28 communities that have banded together for a common cause,” says Jeff Martinka, executive director of Sweet Water.
So why was the advertising campaign needed?
Sweet Water commissioned a study in 2010 by the Public Policy Forum, which showed that people often believe that pollution comes from large corporations and the Metro Milwaukee Sewerage District.
But the survey found:
- The public incorrectly believes the major sources of water pollution are sewer overflows and industrial wastes when, in fact, 90% of water pollution comes from other sources, such as urban and rural runoff.
- 84% of the public feels that their actions do not have an impact on water quality nor do they see a role for themselves in helping to protect water resources.
“The public has a huge role to play in fixing water pollution, but they don’t see themselves as part of the problem,” Martinka said.
Sweet Water and Root-Pike WIN will also be hosting 15 community events throughout southeastern Wisconsin to educate residents one-on-one. During those events, the groups will distribute 18,000 pet waste bags, provide native plants for rain gardens and give away rain barrels and Milorganite.
The groups are also encouraging residents to:
- Plant rain gardens and trees.
- Direct downspouts into rain barrels, the yard or garden instead of the sewer or driveway.
- Use a carwash or wash cars on the lawn.
For more information, visit www.respectourwaters.com, www.swwtwater.org or www.rootpikewin.org.