by Maria Lee
Two years ago I took a big step towards adulthood and became a home renter. Along with having a house came the barrage of various bills, and among these bills was the City of Minneapolis Utility Bill. Every month I scanned my utility bill and the line ‘Stormwater Utility Fee’ always stood out because I didn’t understand this as a utility.
I eventually learned that part of my ‘Stormwater Utility Fees’ went to the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO). Last month students from the University of Minnesota’s River Rangers group visited the MWMO to build understanding of the what the organization does, where our stormwater fee goes, and how our actions affect the health of the Mississippi River!
The MWMO is a special unit of local government that provides for the long-term management of water and natural resources over an area of land that drains into 15 miles of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities metro area. The MWMO works extremely hard to help residents of the watershed understand how their household, schools, offices, and other places of work and play are connected to the river. In Minneapolis, our storm drains run to the Mississippi River. This means our choices and behavior on the surface makes a huge difference! Part of the MWMO’s effort to increase public understanding of stormwater is their Stormwater Park and Learning Center. The outside of the building is an interpretive area showcasing landscaping choices and strategies that help mitigate stormwater runoff such as rain gardens, rain barrels, and semipermeable surface paving.
While we enjoyed learning about landscaping choices that support a healthier Mississippi River, most students at the University of Minnesota live in apartments, dorms, or rental units that don’t allow re-landscaping. Luckily, the MWMO had many more ideas about habits we can incorporate into our daily lives that support a healthier river! Inside the building they had resources on safer cleaning products and tips to save water. The MWMO also encouraged us as college students to think creatively about conservation and watershed management! Every year the MWMO gives out grant money for Stewardship Ideas. In the past a rain garden on the University of Minnesota Campus has been sponsored by grants like this!
A visit to the MWMO is a great way to see where policy, education, and science-based management converge to face the challenges of an ultra-urban and diverse watershed. Do you have a local watershed management organization? What resources do they have to help you protect our river?