Green Bay Phosphorus Reduction Takes Teamwork

The Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District celebrates clean-water initiatives with new award.
Green Bay Phosphorus Reduction Takes Teamwork
Students from the Conservation Club at Luxemburg-Casco High School admire some of their erosion control plantings near Baird Creek.

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NEW Water, the brand of the Green Bay, Wis., Metropolitan Sewerage District, has taken an innovative approach to decreasing phosphorus levels in Green Bay. To engage local residents — and emphasize clean water — the district created the NEW Watershed Champion Award, which recognizes local efforts to improve water quality.

Water, water, everywhere
“Green Bay is blessed with an abundance of water,” says Tricia Garrison, communications and education coordinator, “but suffers from a ‘dead zone’ — a hypoxic zone devoid of oxygen due to algal blooms caused by excessive phosphorus. While facing stricter phosphorus regulations, we could have elected to build a new treatment plant costing ratepayers in excess of $220 million. Instead, we have taken a forward-thinking option of pursuing ‘adaptive management’ to work in the watershed to reduce phosphorus.”

NEW Water management realized phosphorus reduction requires a combined effort from municipalities, agriculture and industrial and wastewater treatment entities. 

“As the saying goes,” Garrison says, “you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. So we frame our conversations in a positive way.”

Celebrate the positive
“We realized there were some excellent things being done locally to address the phosphorus problem,” Garrison says. “We wanted to create a celebratory event to shine a spotlight on these local efforts. The NEW Watershed Champion Award surfaced as a great way to achieve that.”

The award ceremony coincided with World Water Day, the United Nations-designated day to bring awareness to water issues globally.

“It seemed a perfect fit for our new recognition program,” Garrison says.

The award, which recognizes outstanding efforts at improving water quality, is open to any age group, organization or individual. Nicolet National Bank in Green Bay provided $1,000 as part of the award.

NEW Water teamed up with the Green Bay Water Utility and kicked off with promotion via social media, traditional media, word-of-mouth and communication with community groups and shareholders. Selecting the first award recipient came quickly.

“We studied the landscape of water quality improvement efforts,” Garrison says, “and quickly came to a consensus. Science teacher Charlie Frisk from Luxemburg-Casco High School was a natural candidate. He was retiring as well, so the timing couldn’t be more fitting. Charlie has worked tirelessly for decades to improve the water quality of Baird Creek and has been an inspirational leader in water education as a community leader, science teacher, mentor and collaborator to many in northeast Wisconsin.”

Garrison says Frisk received resounding support when the award was announced. NEW Water also awarded Mayor Jim Schmitt and Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach for their water-quality improvement efforts. Attendees at the event included the DNR, local media, conservation and business leaders and more. 

“Our presentation event was standing room only,” Garrison says.

Garrison adds the team has received many compliments about the positivity of the event. As a result, NEW Water has broadened its team of water champions.

“We’re in the process of fine tuning the process for next year,” Garrison says, “so stay tuned!”

It’s all one water
“Since water is really ‘one water’ as part of the vast water cycle, it’s logical for us to collaborate with our local water utility,” professes Garrison. “For example, Green Bay Water set up their ‘water bar’ at our World Water Day event.  It was a big hit and a great reminder of just how good our tap water is.” Garrison points out that NEW Water has an excellent partnership with the water utility, collaborating with them on various educational outreach activities.

NEW Water actively engages in educational outreach year round by speaking to schools and Scout troops and participating in community events. On-site tours are conducted regularly for university, college and other students, as well as various industry, civic and community groups, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the complex world of water treatment.

NEW Water serves more than 219,000 residents over a 285-square mile area, treating about 38 mgd.



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