A lighthouse on Lake Michigan near downtown Milwaukee

A lighthouse on Lake Michigan near downtown Milwaukee

With the exception of my college years in Walla Walla, WA, I've lived all my life in cities that are dominated by water. Whether it's a lake, an ocean or a river, I've always loved living close to the water, and I know that my neighbors do too. I currently reside in Milwaukee, WI which has both rivers crisscrossing it, and one of the Great Lakes (Lake Michigan) next to it.  I don't have a lakefront house or anything like that, but my apartment is just blocks from the lake (yes, in a city like Milwaukee, that is affordable for a young non-profit employee) so I get to enjoy it on a daily basis. Here are 7 reasons why living near the water rocks:

1.  Water makes industry possible. A city on a body of water is open to so many business opportunities, whether in the transport of goods along a river, the use of water as energy, or in that most ancient of water industries: fishing. My current home of Milwaukee relies on water for many of its local businesses, from a tiny kayak rental shop to the massive water treatment plant. I also see local fisherman out on the docks nearly every time I run along the lake trails, catching their dinners and teaching their kids the art of fishing.

2.  Water is an asset for local businesses. Lakefront property is not often cheap but it presents amazing opportunities for local businesses. Plop a coffee shop or restaurant along the water and suddenly it becomes 10x more desirable and valuable. For instance, there's a famous restaurant called Barnacle Bud's hidden amidst a warehouse district along the Kinnickinnic River in Milwaukee that is almost legendary. The food's not even very good; it's just a fun spot. You can even take your boat to the restaurant and dock it while you eat.

3.  Local water sustains life. At a time when drought has plagued several US states and many countries around the world, living near a large body of fresh water is an immense blessing. If they treat their lakes and rivers right, it means the millions of residents in the surrounding area will have a reliable source of water for decades to come.

4.  I can walk or bike along the lake whenever I want. More beautiful, more interesting and more breezy than a typical trail (in my opion), Milwaukee's strip of Lake Michigan offers walking/biking paths that stretch for miles. Many towns on the water have similar trails and pathways. What better way to spend an afternoon and get some exercise?

A beach on Lake Michigan, just north of Milwaukee

A beach on Lake Michigan, just north of Milwaukee

The Milwaukee River running through the Third Ward neighborhood of Milwaukee

The Milwaukee River running through the Third Ward neighborhood of Milwaukee

5.  Water means beaches. Certainly not every body of water is as inviting as a Florida beach, but almost all of them offer some form of sloped bank upon which to have a picnic, read a book, or maybe actually jump in the water. I've never braved Lake Michigan's waters but I have enjoyed a sunny afternoon with friends and snacks on one of our local beaches.

6.  Sailing, boating and other water sports are at my fingertips. As if walking, biking and swimming weren't enough, water also offers the opportunity for boating. A family friend invites my boyfriend and me out on his sailboat at least once a month in the spring and summer. Even if you can't afford your own boat or don't have a friend from whom to borrow one, many lakes and rivers offer paddle boats or canoe rentals for a small fee. 

7.  You can't beat that natural beauty. Water is one of the most beautiful natural features a landscape can possess (in my opinion). So to have that just a few blocks away from me is magic. Lakes, rivers and oceans also bring with them aquatic and shore-based plants, as well as birds, fish and water dwelling mammals, all of which mean added beauty and learning experiences too.

Many of us tend to think of water as something to be seen on vacation. But you don't need to live in a beachside villa in the Caribbean in order to experience the value of water. Thousands of cities and towns across the country have this asset right under their noses; they just need to make good use of it.

(All photos taken by the author)


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