Matt Howard first made a name for himself as the city’s green czar, officially the Milwaukee director of sustainability, spearheading a handful of energy programs and the construction of the city’s wind turbine during his tenure from 2010 to 2015. Since then, his working life has grown considerably vaster: Employed by the Water Council since June 2015, Howard is responsible for promoting water conservation across all of North America (using the sustainability standards developed by the Alliance for Water Stewardship). The job involves a lot of travel but not much fly fishing, his pastime, although he does squeeze in the occasional nature hike.
Locally, what are the greatest threats to water quality?
The biggest is polluted stormwater runoff. Most of the pollution in our rivers and Lake Michigan can be traced to polluted stormwater runoff from agricultural [land] upstream, city streets and lawn that have fertilizers and pesticides on them.
What about road salt? Research has found it turns our little streams toxic.
It certainly increases the salinity. Road salt is a major problem, and communities have tried different things, whether it’s sand or beet juice. You’ve got to find a product that’s just as effective, that people are OK with, and which you can get a lot of.