Water Star program highlights communities’ creative solutions to water resource challenges

Free web seminars on getting the most from Water Star to start in July

Contact Suzanne Wade, 920-674-8972, suzanne.wade@ces.uwex.edu

Jefferson, Wis.—One year after its start, the Water Star program is shining a spotlight on Wisconsin communities’ innovative steps to conserve and protect water resources.

“Too often we complain about what isn’t being done instead of celebrating the positive steps municipalities are taking,” said Suzanne Wade, a Cooperative Extension basin educator and Water Star coordinator. “I’m impressed at the local wisdom that these municipal staff and elected officials have used in solving water problems. Water Star is one way for them to share their good work.”

Water Star was created to honor cities, villages, towns and counties that take significant steps to protect surface water and groundwater, such as strengthening storm water controls, ensuring water quality, protecting habitats and encouraging residents to conserve water.

The program determines how well participating municipalities meet its standards for water resource protections and designates participants as gold, silver or bronze star communities.

To make it easier for municipalities to apply for Water Star recognition, Wade reports that the program recently upgraded its website at http://www.waterstarwisconsin.org/.

“The website is much improved from last year, the application offers many new options and flexibility for municipalities,” says Wade. “We’ve also added more than 100 success stories from communities of all sizes and locations around Wisconsin.”

Water Star is also holding a series of “webinars”—web-based seminars—beginning July 1 and running through September to share ideas for how communities can benefit from the program. The one-hour webinars are free and will feature speakers from state cities, villages and towns that are making improvements under challenging circumstances. Pre-registration is required by noon the day before each session.

Dates and topics for the sessions include:

–July 1–Wisconsin Water Star–Navigating Water Star

–July 15–Ordinances for Protecting Water Quality–Natural Lawns, Rain Gardens and Downspout Disconnection

–July 29–Pervious Pavement and Pavers in a Municipal Environment

–Aug. 12–Salt and Deicing Strategies to Protect Water Quality

–Aug. 26–Greener Streets–Using Bioswales for Clean Water and Infiltration

–Sept. 9–Stream Corridor Improvements–Remeandering and Daylighting Streams, Habitat Restoration and Fish Friendly Culverts

–Sept. 23–Using Non-Regulatory Tools to Achieve Water Quality Goals

For more information and to register, go to http://www.waterstarwisconsin.org/webinars.cfm

Twenty-two municipalities were named Water Star Communities in 2010, including Ashland, Bayfield, Beloit, Bristol, Brown Deer, Dane County, Darlington, DeForest, Egg Harbor, Fitchburg, Grafton, Manitowoc, Menomonee Falls, Middleton, Mukwonago, Plymouth, River Falls, Stevens Point, Sun Prairie, Waukesha County, Weston and Whitewater.

“It’s pretty amazing to me the breadth of actions that have been taken all around the state,” says Wade. “It certainly shows how different the challenges are that Wisconsin municipalities face and how creative they are in meeting those challenges.”

From removing invasive plants from the Fish Creek Watershed in Ashland, to purchasing property and converting it to public parkland in Beloit, to controlling stormwater in River Falls and providing public education on rain gardens and rain barrels in Manitowoc, the scope of conservation projects undertaken by Wisconsin communities has continued to increase.

Water Star is sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Cooperative Extension, MSA Professional Services, Town and County RC&D, Rock River Coalition, the UW-Extension Environmental Resources Center, Dane County, Natural Resources Consulting Inc.-Stantec, Ruekert-Mielke, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

To learn more about Water Star and the efforts of Wisconsin communities to protect local water resources, visit the Water Star website at http://www.waterstarwisconsin.org/.

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