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Welcome to OWN

Introduction

The launching of the Owasco Watershed Network (OWN) is the result of the work of many people determined to harness the power of new and varied information technologies to serve a single purpose, the long term protection of Owasco Lake. If the term ”traditional” can rationally be applied to such technologies then on the surface at least it can be seen as a traditional web portal. It is the presentation of information and material from various sources in a unified way through the use of a website. Thus it could be expected to contain links to other websites representing many organizations and individuals who also present data and information useful to the protection of Owasco Lake. There is no surprise here; this portal does that, with links to the work of many groups and individuals from the Owasco Watershed Association (OWL) to the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) and including at its release more than 30 links to organizations doing critical work. But why create such a portal in the first place?

Purpose

The vision for the portal can be seen as a metaphor representing the ecology of the lake. The lake rests as the receiving body of water for a land area that is almost 20 times the size of the lake area. 205 square miles of land area drain to the lake, which has a surface area of only 10.3 square miles. What happens to the water as it moves toward the lake across this vast watershed is what happens to the lake. How this land is managed therefore has direct and compelling impact on the condition of the lake.

Making things even more interesting is the supposition that the lake is also similarly impacted by groundwater resources that also move water to the lake and the potential for these ground water systems to be influenced in turn by recharge areas that may not even be in the watershed at all. An enormously varied and complex ecology has evolved within these areas and it has real if not completely understood impacts of the condition of the lake.

Additional impacts come directly from the condition of the rain and snow, the precipitation that falls directly from the sky into the body of water. The same ratios that increase the influence of runoff and groundwater on the lake decrease the relative influence of direct precipitation. There simply isn’t that much surface area to catch such precipitation in comparison to the surface area of the watershed.

Thus we can see “Own” as a metaphor to this basic ecology. Own is a portal that connects widely varied information and data of interest, importance, and influence to the protection of the lake. Like the rain that falls on the watershed and is carried into the lake via its many tributaries, some of this information is of obvious importance. But like an individual decision to apply fertilizer to a small field already saturated with rain or to apply manure on completely frozen ground several miles from the shoreline, the significance of some of the information will be less clear.

Intent (outcome)

So what do we expect to accomplish with OWN, what is the intended outcome? Well first of all if it is going to exist it has to be sustainable. To be sustainable it has to be of interest to a significant and growing number of people. To be of interest to a growing number of people it has to remain fresh, and present more and more relevant information of interest and value. If it serves simply the interest of those already concerned about the long term protection of the lake, it shall surely not be sustainable. Yet if it drifts too far from its focus on the lake and its environs, it shall lose its purpose. If it to be truly successful it must inform the decisions of the many individuals, organizations, and agencies that currently have influence on its future. And it must provide the opportunity to report the constant discovery and  learning that will continue to occur as scientists  learn more about the processes that impact its future and organizational representatives continue to synthesize that understanding and integrate it into the analysis and creative problem-solving that allow representative democracy to work particularly at very local levels. We make such decisions at very local levels. We approve or disapprove the use of land in this watershed in the towns and in the villages of the watershed itself. Remarkably, most of it in fact is within the boundaries of Cayuga County. We don’t really know where the boundaries of groundwater influence rest, or how to influence the air quality that so directly effects the precipitation that falls on us. But we have control over the most direct influences, the point sources and nonpoint sources that are carried across the watershed, so it makes sense that we shall start there with our focus. And from this time forward, we will add information and data; detail and interpretation in ways that we intend will increase interest in the lake and influence the decision-making that will most certainly govern its future.

It is our hope that over time the use of this portal will increase and expand, and that ultimately its size and nature will allow its sustainability. It is our hope that the use of new information technologies accessed through this single portal, including forums and blogs, streaming video, photography, as well as the fine and performing arts, can be used to generate an interactive dialogue around all things of the watershed. Its history, its cultural aspects, its infrastructure, its economy, its ecology, its politics, everything that influences its future can be made available and this access can lead to engagement and this engagement to better decision-making. Thus will those of us who chose to contribute to this renewed engagement control the destiny of Owasco Lake and create the legacy that our children shall inherit from us.