Quantifying beauty in Great Lakes waterways to shed “degraded aesthetics” label

By on November 6, 2012

Experts in the Great Lakes area are looking for objective ways to quantify the beauty of waterways, according to a release from Wisconsin Sea Grant. Standardized aesthetics measures would help simplify showing progress of cleanup projects taking place in many of 43 EPA-designated Areas Of Concern (AOC) in the region.

Efforts in Wisconsin have focused on developing aesthetics surveys to determine the perception of the Fox River Valley’s appeal and finding volunteers to take the survey and help test the water. Samples have also been taken in Lower Green Bay and five other sites. Ten AOCs in Michigan have aesthetics as an issue, with it being addressed in two of them. Minnesota is currently beautifying its one AOC, the St. Louis River estuary.

Defining common standards is difficult because waterway pollution in the Great Lakes area varies so much. In Wisconsin, the problem is usually floating debris, algae and silt. Minnesota cleanup projects find oil slicks, grain dust and mineral pellets. Some of Michigan’s water has unnatural color, foam and suspended solids.

Image: The Fox River, upstream of the Area of Concern boundary (Credit: Larry Page, via Flickr)

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