University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Flood (noun): Water Where We Don’t Want It

Most readers of this blog know that the Mississippi and its northernmost tributaries are flooding, and that this year’s excessive rainfall has made the flooding worse than most years.

Dennis Anderson’s column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune takes the occasion of the floods, and president Obama’s recent trip to the Twin Cities, as an opportunity to talk about a nexus of land-water-politics/policy that is not well known.

Anderson takes a while to warm up to his real subject, which is the inadequacy of Minnesota’s policies and regulatory structures around agriculture and water.  Yes, he concedes, many farmers are trying to do better about farming as if water matters.  However,

Yet it remains true that we, as a state, treat water as if its clean, abundant flow — surface and subsurface — is guaranteed forever.

It’s not.

Ask California. Or Texas.

We aren’t California or Texas (yet) here in the Upper Midwest, but we persist in dumping water and sediment and noxious chemicals downstream without real accountability.  We manage our land, both urban and rural,  to move water off it as rapidly as possible.  Our federal and state laws encourage the complete commodification of land and water and food, instead of treating them as legacies bequeathed from our ancestors and borrowed from our children.

We have to do better.

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One Comment

  1. Greg GenzJuly 1, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Excess water, whether it is coming from the 20’X20′ storm sewers of Mpls/St.Paul, dumping in to the River, the $20 million storm sewer from Woodbury to the Miss. River, because the farmland that could absorb 100 yr rains is now blacktop, the exurbia stretching from Shakopee to Mankato, with its blacktopping and concentrating effluent at sewage plants, adding more volume, and the 100,000 miles of ag drain tile added to MN every year. Easy to blame farmers, you can see their water for a while. Sewers whisk ours away much quicker. Until we all take responsibility, the fight for water quality is just that, a fight!

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