Northern Wisconsin favors public oversight of water supply

An overwhelming majority of residents in northern Wisconsin support public sector oversight of drinking water resources, according to a poll conducted by the Center for Rural Communities at Northland College.

Public sector includes publicly owned utilities, as well as tribal water utilities and systems managed by local, state, tribal and federal governments.

About 640 households in Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas and Iron counties participated in the survey, conducted after state lawmakers considered but did not pass legislation to ease the process of privatizing municipal water utilities.

About 83.9 percent of those surveyed said the public sector should be responsible for guaranteeing access to safe drinking water.

About 90 percent said the public sector should notify people of any changes to water quality or water treatment.

“Nearly all respondents — 97 percent — agreed with the statement ‘water is a human right and every person should have access to clean and safe drinking water,’” said Brandon Hofstedt, associate professor of sustainable community development at Northland and faculty director at the center.

About 55.8 percent of those polled said a private entity should not profit from supplying drinking water to households.

Also, about 75 percent said a private entity should not be allowed to extract and sell water from Lake Superior or an aquifer or tributary.

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