Community leaders convene to celebrate water

(left to right in the photo) Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach; UW-Green Bay Dean of the College of Science, Engineering, and Technology John Katers; NEW Water Executive Director and National Association of Clean Water Agencies President Tom Sigmund; UW-Green Bay Chancellor Mike Alexander; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole; Wisconsin Sen. Rob Cowles

Fifty years ago, the Clean Water Act was passed, and clean water took a turn for the better across the U.S., and in particular Northeast Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, October 18th federal, state, and regional leaders convened for water, to commemorate the milestone of the Clean Water Act, and to celebrate the 90th anniversary of NEW Water, the brand of the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District. The Clean Water Act ushered in a new era to curb water pollution and was particularly directed at improving operations of wastewater facilities across the U.S., including NEW Water. NEW Water cleans wastewater for the region, so that people can flush the toilet, do their dishes, and run their businesses, using water whenever they want.

The event featured special messages from U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin; U.S. Congressman Mike Gallagher; and Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator – Office of Water, Radhika Fox. Event speakers included: Wisconsin Sen. Rob Cowles; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole; Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach; University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Chancellor Michael Alexander; University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Dean of the College of Science, Engineering, and Technology John Katers; and NEW Water Executive Director, Tom Sigmund.

“Water is essential for life, and it is our responsibility to protect this precious resource for future generations,” said Streckenbach. “Moving forward, access to fresh, clean, and reliable water will be an important global issue. It is opportunity to play an important role not only in protecting our waterways, but to research and develop solutions here in Northeast Wisconsin that will have a global impact on water security.”

The event was held at the Brown County STEM Innovation Center, which opened in late 2019, and is a partnership between UW-Green Bay and Brown County. The Center is home to UWGB’s Richard J. Resch School of Engineering, along with Brown County’s Land and Water Conservation Department, Extension Brown County, and the Einstein Project. With UW-Green Bay launching in 1968 and dubbed “Eco U,” many University professors and leaders have been involved in water pollution abatement efforts, a tradition which carries on today. UW-Green Bay Professor Emeritus Harold “Jack” Day was former NEW Water Commission President.

“Educating our students and the community about water and the tremendous impact accessibility to clean water has in our region is essential to our mission,” said UW-Green Bay Chancellor, Michael Alexander, “especially since Green Bay is home to the largest freshwater estuary in the world. We are proud to join our community partners to celebrate and to continue to work together to protect this valuable resource.”

NEW Water partners with University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on research, education and sustainability initiatives. NEW Water partners with Brown County on pollution prevention initiatives including household hazardous waste, and watershed efforts, to more cost-effectively protect area waters.

A theme of Tuesday’s event was the critical role partnerships play in protecting our most valuable resource, water.

Last year, in a unique partnership, Brown County, the City of Green Bay, and NEW Water teamed up with Green Bay Packaging on their innovative water reuse system. It allows the mill to operate with the water it needs without discharging a single drop of wastewater into the Fox River. Learn more about this first-of-its kind, circular reclaimed water system here.

In addition to cleaning and returning water to Green Bay Packaging, NEW Water cleaned about 41 billion gallons of water for Northeast Wisconsin last year.

“In Northeast Wisconsin, we are fortunate to have so many community leaders who are committed to protecting water. It is through this power of partnerships that we can more cost effectively protect our precious water resources,” said Tom Sigmund, NEW Water Executive Director. Sigmund is the current President of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies as well. “As we look to finding solutions for the complex water challenges of the future, partnerships will be more critical than ever.”

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