Laying the Groundwork for Lake Erie Water Conservation
Groundwork Erie initiatives focus on local breweries
If there is one thing that Erie residents tend to agree on, it's their love of Lake Erie. Although water quality in the lake has come a long way, there is still much work to be done with protecting and conserving Lake Erie's water.
The 2022 State of the Great Lakes Report assessed Lake Erie as "Poor and Unchanging," making special note of elevated nutrient concentrations and algal blooms being persistent problems. Lake Erie drinking water however, is assessed as "Good" and a source of safe, high-quality drinking water.
That's good news if you're drinking the water, but have you ever thought about how this connects with the beer you're drinking? Maybe not, but for some Gannon students, the connection has been a lesson not just in water quality but also water conservation.
Brianna Bagley, a business administration student at Gannon University, is one of the students who is working with Groundwork Erie on a water conservation project that takes a close look at our local breweries. "We began brainstorming about which local businesses have a large dependence on water and the brewing industry jumped right out at us," said Bagley. "The quality of the water going into the brewing process can really make the difference between a good brew and a great brew."
Bagley said the students conducted significant research on the successful brewing industry here locally and elsewhere with online research outlining the destructive habits that can often take place during the brewing process (such as energy and water consumption and the production of wastewater, solid waste and by-products, and emissions) and how this can affect the environment. As the process continued, the students began partnering with Groundwork Erie, a nonprofit organization that employs and empowers youth like Bagley in constructing green infrastructure, while also educating communities about the significance of clean water, specifically focusing on Lake Erie.
This initiative not only emphasizes the importance of pristine water for environmental health but also highlights its significance in the production of one of Erie's most renowned products — beer.
Aaron Kerr, Ph.D., executive director of Groundwork Erie, says the importance of this initiative is simple. "If you drink water in Erie, you can invest in the lake's health by supporting water conservation work throughout the city. If you like to drink beer, and want beer quality to remain consistent, you can support water conservation efforts by drinking local beer, " said Kerr.
Kerr likens it to a circular economy which favors activities that preserve value in the form of energy, labor, and materials; designing for durability, reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling to keep products, components, and materials circulating in the economy.
Groundwork Erie is working to undo legacies of poverty and racial discrimination by pursuing a future in which everyone's neighborhood environment is green, healthy, and resilient.
"We raised $4,289 this year from Erie Gives and community events," shared Kerr. "That $4,289 will allow us to employ two youth at a competitive wage to do conservation work in the summer of 2024. Our goal for 2024 is to invite 200 people to donate $200 each. This will enable us to employ and train 15 youth in urban conservation and renewal."
The Groundwork Erie board, representatives of the Erie Ale Trail, and Craig Palmer of Erie Water Works were recently on hand as the students presented their research and business plan to gain more support for Groundwork Erie. If you'd like to learn more about their initiatives and how you can get involved check out their website at groundworkerie.com
Amy VanScoter can be reached at email@example.com