From her beginnings at Waukesha Area Technical College, Linda Reid went on to receive her degree in criminal justice from Mount Senario College in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, and follow her calling with a law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She is a passionate advocate for the environment and the current chair of Sweet Water, South West Wisconsin Watershed Trust.
On September 28 of this year, Linda Reid took the stage at Discovery World for a UW-Madison alumni event – of which she is not an aluma – and stole the show. In her personable style, she related her childhood dream of wanting to become a marine biologist after summers exploring Europe Bay Beach in Door County, but encountering the stumbling block that thwarts many aspiring scientists: the perception that she could not do the math. That did not keep her from seeking to understand and help the cause of the environment. She found herself equally in love with the law, and after receiving her law degree and working for the State of Arkansas, she would go on to merge her interests in Wisconsin.
Milwaukee and many of its industries were built on water and in 2006, two local CEOs convened a meeting to discuss making Milwaukee a global power in the water industry, in an attempt to ‘pivot’ other decaying industries. From this was born the The Water Council, which garnered much attention when Miller-Coors became involved and today has NSF funding and UN recognition. The leaders of the Water Council would reach out to others, including universities about the strategic initiative. Rich Meeusen, a Council co-founder and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater alumnus, would approach UW-Whitewater about the university’s focus on water issues, and in this context Linda would develop and teach Water Law and Policy at UW – Whitewater, launch and direct its Institute for Water Business, and create a Water Business minor at the school.
Linda would later be tabbed as executive director of Sweet Water, the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust, Inc. Sweet Water’s offices are located in the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. They have the stated mission to restore the Greater Milwaukee watersheds to conditions that are swimmable and fishable. With a diverse science committee — consisting of faculty and students from UWM and other universities, together with industry and government representatives — Sweet Water helps to bring science to policy. The organization serves both in advocacy and as a source of funding for watershed improvement projects. Often they work as a facilitator between other non-profits, industry, government agencies and academia, which can otherwise work in silos.
Among their projects, they have worked with a collaborative to eliminate the use of certain tar-based road sealants within the watershed; they have worked with Graef, MMSD, Stormwater Solutions Engineering and others, to help develop a Green Infrastructure for Schools Guidebook; they have established a mini-grant program, granting between $1,000-$5,000 to projects advancing Sweet Water’s stated mission; and they hold an annual conference allowing people and organizations an opportunity to share their projects and proposals for advancing the initiative. They also work in direct partnerships with nonprofits to champion the cause.
In the past, water quality work has emphasized reducing the use and/or dumping of certain chemicals into our waterways though point sources (pipes). But Linda notes a shift from concerns about ‘point source pollution,’ which the Clean Water Act does address, to concerns about pollution from diffuse sources — of which, she points out, we are all an example. At the talk, she mentioned two issues which have come up in recent articles published at milwaukeescience.org: Phosphorus from farming and lawn fertilizer and Chlorides from road salt. This shift means that more citizens, and not just industry experts, need to be educated in order to protect our waters. To get the word out, Sweet Water can be found tabling at events through its “Respect Our Waters” campaign.
In the end, Linda makes plain, their method is clear: “Got to be loud, respectfully loud.”
Casey S. Schroeder is a regular contributor to MASA. More of his work can be found at atheoryof.me