Rochester welcomes the We Are Water MN exhibit at the Rochester Art Center from March 11-May 9, 2021.
The exhibit and events explore the Zumbro River watershed, an area of nearly 1 million acres in southeast Minnesota. The three forks of the Zumbro River–South, Middle, and North--join up north of Rochester. The watershed includes rivers and streams of varying water quality and groundwater that is sensitive to pollution.
We Are Water MN is a popular statewide traveling exhibit and community engagement project that invites visitors to reflect on the experiences of local people. Visitors come to a deeper understanding of what taking care of water means to them. Science and history are also explored via this 1,000-square foot, hands-on exhibit created by the Minnesota Humanities Center, MPCA, Minnesota Historical Society, and Departments of Health, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Janice Domke doesn’t blame the river when it floods
In September 2010, the Zumbro River watershed experienced one of the most significant flash floods in Minnesota's climate history. Janice Domke was on the Hammond City Council the year the the historic flood occurred. She also owned the Hammond Bar. She was interviewed as a part of this project and is featured in the exhibit.
“[The flood] was September 23rd and 24th of 2010. Yeah, that was quite a day,” she remembers. “We both went to bed, just praying that our house would be saved because we knew the bar was a loss.” After a flood like that, Janice says that there’s a lot to take care of. “Being on the city council, I had to manage the city,” she remembers. “I couldn't deal with my home. I couldn't deal with the bar, because as a city official, my primary responsibility was making sure that the residents were taken care of, that there was as much open communication as we could.” Hammond lost 17 properties that week. “And the problem that happens,” she explains, “is that the city loses tax revenue and then becomes the owner. And you gain the cost of maintaining property that no one can build on. And you can't do anything with, but mow the grass.”
“You know, there were a lot of very distraught people. And there were a lot of people that were very upset at the river. And there were some people that moved away because they were mad that the river had done this to them. I am not one of those people. The river is the river. I'm not a victim. I'm a survivor.”
You can listen to Janice’s story in the exhibit, or at mnhum.org/water. Click on “hear stories.”
Visiting the exhibit
We Are Water MN is open March 11 to May 9 at the Rochester Art Center (30 Civic Center Drive SE, Rochester, MN 55904). Hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no admission fee.
Special events are being planned by the local partner group, including:
- Urban and agricultural practices that lead to water quality improvements (online), April 8, 6 p.m.
- Resilient Yards workshop (online), April 13, 6 p.m.
- Bee Lawns workshop (online), April 28, 6 p.m.
- A History of Rochester Wastewater Treatment (online), April 29th, 6 p.m.
- A nitrate testing clinic for well owners, date TBD.
Visit the We Are Water Rochester website for a full schedule and details.
Stay the day and try out these other local activities
- Visit the History Center of Olmsted County, where they put together a related exhibit about water and Rochester’s early growth as a city, including the history of the Regional Flood Control System.
- Check out Allis Park in Oronoco. You’ll have views of the rock arch rapids that replaced the dam after it was damaged in the 2010 flood.
- View woodland spring wildflowers at the Zumbro Falls Woods Scientific and Natural Area.
- Paddle the Zumbro River State Water Trail.