A growing movement worldwide — called “One Water” — is managing water in a more holistic manner. Instead of separately managing drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, water for farming and water for the environment, this management approach seeks out solutions with multiple benefits. As a wide variety of water crises balloon in the United States and around the globe, a broad set of solutions are necessary. As author Erica Gies writes, “[t]oo much water, too little water, water that’s not clean enough: all threaten business, and population growth and shifting water patterns due to climate change are exacerbating the problems.”
For instance, in Wisconsin the Yahara Watershed Improvement Network is working to decrease nitrate pollution that is wreaking havoc on waterways and the environment by developing a partnership among municipalities, wastewater treatment plants, farmers, environmental groups, the UW–Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Known to address the problem. They have come up with multi-pronged solutions like adding native-grass buffer strips between farm fields and waterways, using cover crop for soil health, improving animal manure management and collecting leaves in urban areas.
As US water infrastructure ages and requires upgrades, smarter One Water methods that utilize what nature provides (“ecosystem services”) can be employed to conserve water, reduce pollution and help the environment, all while keeping down economic costs.