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Water Is News in Minnesota

January 19, 2016Patrick NunnallyRiversComments Off on Water Is News in Minnesota

That fact, to some extent, is news in and of itself.  For too long Minnesota has rested on the laurels of promotional slogans (“Land of 10,000 Lakes” and arcane facts (more boat and fishing licenses per capita than any other state) as evidence of the state’s love and stewardship of its waters.

Last week Governor Mark Dayton announced that he would be asking the legislature for nearly a quarter of a BILLION dollars in state bonding to begin the process of upgrading local water infrastructure systems.  This sum is rightly understood as a down payment on a multi-decade investment that will end up costing billions over the long term.

But the alternative, letting the state’s drinking water supplies fall into further disrepair, is unthinkable.  Just ask anyone involved with the crisis Flint Michigan is facing over its drinking water supplies.  The short version: two years or so ago, the city switched water supply sources in an effort to save money.  Not only was the new supply tainted, but chemicals in the water leached lead out of outdated pipes.  The result: unusable water and measurably high levels of lead in children’s bloodstreams.  This poisoning will affect at least a generation of people.  I won’t link to more details.  There are hundreds of stories on this; find the news source that you trust most and you’ll find a more complete account.

Closer to home, the issue of who cares for water in Minnesota is implicitly a concern for folks outside the “usual suspects” in water stories.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s outdoors writer, Dennis Anderson, noted in a recent article that one of the “storms” facing natural resource managers is that the emerging generation of Minnesota residents is less likely to have first-hand experience with the state’s waters than “boomers” have.  Anderson does not explore the changing demographics of the state, but anyone who has knows that Minnesota will become more diverse in the future.  Resource managers, and others concerned with water issues, need to broaden their appeal beyond evocations of childhood canoeing and fishing trips.

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