Standing beside Lake Itasca, where the Mississippi River begins its 2,350 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico, Governor Mark Dayton kicked off a “Year of Water Action” in Minnesota on August 18. Dayton is urging businesses, farmers, outdoor enthusiasts, communities, and families to take action to conserve and improve water quality.
Throughout the next 12 months, Dayton and his administration will visit school classrooms, water treatment facilities, research institutions, and farms to encourage Minnesotans to learn more about the challenges facing our waters, including:
- Despite the state’s abundance of lakes, rivers, groundwater and streams, more than 40% of Minnesota’s waters are currently listed as impaired or polluted.
- Damaging aquatic invasive species have infested more than 550 lakes statewide.
- The water treatment plants and clean drinking water systems that make Minnesotans’ water safe to drink, cook with, and bathe in, are also in serious disrepair. Some communities still rely on wooden pipes, installed more 100 years ago, for their drinking water. In fact, Minnesota is $11 billion behind in just maintaining its aging water treatment and delivery systems over the next 20 years.
- Initial testing indicates that 60% of the wells in central Minnesota may not provide safe drinking water.
While state and local governments can play an important role in protecting and conserving water quality, these public entities cannot do it alone.
It’s up to Minnesota families and private industry to lead the way, since private water usage comprises the majority of consumption in the state. Locally led efforts of soil and water conservation districts, watershed districts, civic groups, and individual landowners are essential to protecting and conserving water quality.