Cheryl Nenn
Milwaukee Riverkeeper
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

We hope...

“...We saw leaders from across the globe, not only recognize the importance of our waterways, but take bold action to protect them. ”

Dear future friends of the rivers,

Who knows how the next 50 to 100 years will transform our rivers? If we know anything though, it is that our rivers will survive—they are resilient, timeless, and tireless. When imagining those rivers in the future, several possible scenarios come to mind. One scenario features clean and cool rivers and lakes, which are being enjoyed by people fishing, swimming, and paddling.

Another “darker” scenario includes rivers and lakes with warm water, low oxygen levels, and few fish to be found. Picture rivers and lakes with lower water levels caused by evaporation, over-use, and extraction for industry. Picture waters covered in a thick coating of harmful blue-green algae caused by excess pollution. Picture cities regularly damaged by floods and rivers full of untreated sewage, from more intense and frequent storms that overwhelm our sewers. This scenario may sound extreme, far-fetched, and even a little like science-fiction, but this is the path we are headed down.

We hope that the 2015 Paris Climate Talks is when everything changed. When we saw leaders from across the globe, not only recognize the importance of our waterways, but take bold action to protect them. When Waterkeepers from around the globe converged in Paris and convinced global leaders to help protect our waterways and ultimately the communities that depend on them.

We hope 2015 was the year our leaders created a legally binding, universal agreement to reduce greenhouse gases threatening our common future and quality of life. We hope that we can look back at the Paris Climate Talks agreement as the turning point where our Federal and State governments started to re-invest in our future by investing in our infrastructure and waterways.

We hope that 2015 was when we started to expedite efforts to build green infrastructure to capture and clean stormwater; to remove more dams to set our rivers and fish free; and to protect and restore our shorelines, wetlands, and floodplains so we could better adapt to changing water levels. We hope 2015 was when we stepped up to protect 20% of the world's fresh surface found in the Great Lakes.

We hope that you are looking out your window at a beautiful, clean, flowing river or lake, and that our vision of fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters for everyone has come true.

Cheryl Nenn, Riverkeeper
Milwaukee Riverkeeper, member of the Waterkeeper Alliance