Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 5:40 PM
Cuyahoga County is kicking off an initiative to track the health of Lake Erie, bringing together the Metroparks, Port Authority and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, among others. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports.
County officials plan to track data and then post it online, to help local governments, environmental groups and others better manage the problems the lake faces, like algal blooms and e coli.
The initiative is called LakeStat. Jennifer Scofield from the county executive’s office is overseeing it. She says this will help groups better chart their progress.
“But it can also be used for these organizations to say, ‘Here’s some data that’s all in one place,’” Scofield said. “We can use it to help tell our story. Hopefully we can use it to help write some grants.”
Possible metrics to track include the amount and type of nutrients flowing into the lake, number beach closures and the prevalence of measures to thwart stormwater overflow.
Bill Deutsch at Auburn University is the founding director of Alabama Water Watch and Global Water Watch, which help communities manage the health of local waterways. In a phone call with WCPN, he said counting green rooftops and stormwater catchments—geared at preventing sewer overflow during heavy rainfall—could help the county track citizen involvement.
“Monitoring that over time is a great way to know if the community is buying into the idea, if they’re on track,” Deutsch said.
Josh Knights at the Nature Conservancy in Ohio, who attended the meeting, says that to make a difference in Lake Erie’s water quality, it’s going to take more than the efforts of just Cuyahoga County, which sits on the lake’s central basin.
“There are tremendous resources here in...the Greater Cleveland area,” Knights said. “Intellectual resources, financial resources, political resources, and the challenge is that a lot of the problems affecting the central basin are coming from sources that are outside the basin.”
For example, agricultural runoff in western Ohio has been linked with algal blooms.
LakeStat is just starting out, and Scofield says she’ll be collecting data in the coming days and weeks.
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