No place like home


These days, I almost feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz–transported into a strange dream. But, if I have to stay at home, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than in Jo Daviess County. I’m more grateful than I’ve ever been for the beauty, the open space, and especially for the people.

The water resource management work of the League of Women Voters has allowed a growing number of us to spend time together over the years studying particulars of this special place in greater depth (literally and figuratively!).

The things we’ve learned about the county (and about each other) have made it possible for us to engage in a variety of meaningful ways as informed citizens. Here are a couple examples.

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When we learned that the Illinois Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (IASWCDs) was planning to lobby to restore funding to the local SWCDs, we were able to reach out quickly to ask local groups in Jo Daviess County to sign on to a letter of support. We knew from our 2016 survey of local government boards that our Jo Daviess Conservation Soil & Water Conservation District is the most trusted source of information on water-related matters. Systematic defunding of SWCDs has resulted in the loss of our SWCD Resource Conservationist at a time when, arguably, the services provided from that position are most needed. The relationships developed over time resulted in a strong response with the county board, East Galena Township, the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, the League of Women Voters, the Soil & Water Health Coalition and the Jo Daviess County Horticultural Society signing on quickly. Still waiting to learn the outcome, but we were able to participate on short notice.

We’ve been able to ask questions of those who created the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) about assumptions they made to determine our area’s nitrogen and phosphorous contributions to the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. We’re working with members of the NLRS science team to improve the accuracy of their estimates using data we’re collecting, and we’re contributing what we’ve learned about our hydrogeology to support the interpretation of that data. We intend to inform the process recommending actions for our area. If we’re going to tackle the problem of nutrient loss, we want to be able to do it efficiently and effectively, and we need to be in sync with those leading the effort.

Water is essential to life. It’s a never-ending, ever-changing topic that will likely only become more important as time goes on. We have a responsibility to each other and to those in the future who will love this place as much as we do to try to understand how our local hydrology functions and how our actions may impact this vital resource. Isn’t it our job as citizens to know our place and our people and to participate thoughtfully in the public processes that shape our society? After all. . .”There’s no place like home.”