(Minneapolis, MN) - Most surface water in the Minnesota River Basin has been declared "impaired" by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Waters are considered Impaired if they are too polluted or otherwise degraded to meet the criteria of "fishable and swimmable," or "suitable for drinking," or both. One rural resident from the Basin may have spoken for many when he said, "we live in an agricultural area and that's just the way it is." Not anymore. A lawsuit over who will pay for nitrate removal equipment at the Des Moines water treatment plant has shown how divisive water issues can become.
Dovetail Partners, Inc. and the Water Resources Center at Minnesota State University in Mankato are teaming up to head off some of that divisiveness. According to Dr. Richard A. Levins, the lead researcher for the project, "The complacency of 'that's just the way it is' has been erased by water that fails to meet health requirements for drinking water. What was once a farmer vs. environmentalist problem that could be addressed with further study is now one of 'who will pay now' that can pit one rural citizen against another."
Kimberly Musser, Acting Director of the Water Resources Center, stresses the importance of Minnesotans working together, not against each other, in solving water quality problems. "The discussion of water quality in the Minnesota River Basin must be broadened beyond farmers and environmentalists," says Musser. "It must include all citizens living in the Basin. Furthermore, the water quality discussion must be reframed in ways that better suit both current reality and broad citizen participation."
As a first step in advancing that new, more inclusive, discussion, the McKnight Foundation-funded project will prepare A Citizen Guide to Water Quality in the Minnesota River Basin. Developing those new directions, and broad support for them, will require a new look at the old problem of deteriorating water quality. Kathryn Fernholz, Executive Director of Dovetail Partners, Inc., put it this way: "The issue of unhealthy water in the Minnesota River Basin involves all Minnesotans, some as water consumers, and all as taxpayers and people proud of our River heritage."
About Dovetail Partners
Dovetail Partners is a Minnesota-based environmental non-profit (501(c)(3)) formed in 2003 with a mission of providing authoritative information about the impacts and trade-offs of environmental decisions, including consumption choices, land use, and policy alternatives. Since its formation, Dovetail has championed projects throughout Minnesota and more broadly to address responsible land management, innovative production systems, and new rural economic opportunities.