Did you come to the Lake Erie WaterFest at Miller Park this past weekend? If you did, we hope you liked it. If you didn't, you missed out on a great event.
The underlying goal of WaterFest was to help sensitize people to the benefits and plight of Lake Erie. Living here beside 20 percent of the world's fresh surface-water supply can make us take things for granted. Lake Erie contains about 130 trillion gallons of water—a sizeable amount by any standard and one that you think would be hard to pollute. However, when about 13 million to 26 million pounds of phosphorus along with a host of other pollutants enter the lake each year, even 130 trillion gallons can be affected.
Lake Erie is vital to us in countless ways. Therefore, its protection is also vital to us. The water we drink comes from Lake Erie. Avon Lake Regional Water removes contaminants so that the water is safe to drink. The more polluted it is, the more it costs to treat; and these costs are passed on to you through the rates we charge. Living on the lake, all of us enjoy the lake in our own ways. Swimming, fishing, boating, birding, picture taking, and sunsetting are just some of the ways we enjoy the lake. Each of these are diminished in some way as the lake becomes more polluted.
On a macroeconomic scale, Lake Erie is home to an $11.5 billion per year tourism industry. Additionally, steel mills and other heavy manufacturing originally started here because of the lake. As water stress becomes more pronounced in other parts of the country, the region has the opportunity to bring industry back. Some cities are already promoting their bounty of water. Milwaukee has taken it a step farther and is trying to spur innovation as a water technology hub: http://alwtr.us/MilHub. Cleveland has recently given approval for a $700 million development project along the lake: http://alwtr.us/CleDevel.
Back to the WaterFest. Each of the activities was centered around our uses of the lake. More than 100 of us, my wife and I included, took part in Avon Lake's first triathlon. We swam in Lake Erie and then biked and ran along the lake. Many—young and old alike—tried out kayaking and paddleboarding at the Miller Road Park beach. The grins on their faces were huge. The fishing demonstrations were busy throughout the day, and some even caught their first fish ever. Artisans sold nature-inspired art. I believe the lake theme provides a sense of peace and identity to which we all can relate. The organizations tasked with protecting Lake Erie were able to share their missions with about 1,000 WaterFest attendees while keeping the kids entertained.
Lake Erie is important to us all. Individually, none of us can do enough alone to protect it. Collectively, we can assure that Lake Erie remains the treasure that it is. So, please do your part. Thanks for coming to the Lake Erie WaterFest. We hope to see you next year.