Water quality: A Minnesota maelstrom


Category:  Fields and Streams

Via:  community  •  8 years ago  •  7 comments

Water quality: A Minnesota maelstrom

When it comes to protecting water, Minnesota voters have stepped up twice, by amending the state Constitution to raise funds through the State Lottery and by expanding the sales tax. The result is tens of millions of dollars spent annually on the state’s storied lakes and rivers.

So, with all that spending, water quality must be improving, right?

No, say multiple state reports. In fact, things are getting worse.

Last year Gov. Mark Dayton declared that water quality decline is “serious.” He assembled a daylong water summit in February, and he’s now embarked on a campaign to explain to a tuned-out public that the problem really is as bad as reports say.

But despite all the spending, planning and persuading — and faux cooing about “success” — the quality of lakes, rivers and groundwater continues to slide.



A must-read series by the Star Tribune’s Josephine Marcotty ( “Danger Downstream,” Oct. 2-4) detailed how rivers like the Mississippi are spiraling toward an “ecological precipice.” The north-flowing Red River is so sullied when it leaves the U.S. that it’s enlarging an oxygen-depleted “dead zone” in Lake Winnipeg.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency lists 4,600 lakes and stream segments as “impaired,” some no longer “fishable or swimmable.” Nitrates in groundwater from excessive fertilizer use exceed safe-drinking standards.

It’s true that 1970s-era laws brought cleaner water and air than we had in the “good old days,” when the rivers and sky were, literally, smelly waste dumps.

But those laws excluded pollutants like farm and lawn chemicals, and local zoning has promoted conversion of forests to cropping and other development that brings ever-increasing runoff of bad stuff. There’s worry over spreading invasive species and even over residue of medicines carelessly flushed down toilets.

It’s a classic “tragedy of the commons,” in which folks acting “rationally” in their own individual self-interest damage a common resource in a way that harms everyone, including themselves.


No one’s to blame. Everyone is.




jrDiscussion - desc
Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton    8 years ago

There should be another Soylent Green movie made. It would be easy; film what's actually going on today as a documentary. Call it a prequel.


Professor Principal
link   Kavika     8 years ago

Larry, most don't seem to give a shit about this. The ''Land of Sky Blue Waters'' sooon will be the ''Land of Poison Water'', come drink your fill and die.

I remember the article that your posted some time ago about the whole SW corner of MN lakes being poisoned to the extent that you can't swim in them and of dogs dying from swimming in them.

''The Water Protectors'' in ND are standing up and telling us, it's not just about Standing Rock, but the whole county that needs to protect our waters.

Excellent article.


Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton  replied to  Kavika   8 years ago

Thanks kavika.

You're correct of course; most don't give a flyin' fig. That will change when thirst gives way to dehydration and death.

Sophomore Quiet
link   Dowser    8 years ago

This is alarming!  What's going on?  There has to be something that can be done!!!

One of my geology professors is in Minnesota with the USGS.  I would love to find him and speak to him about it!

Larry Hampton
Professor Participates
link   seeder  Larry Hampton  replied to  Dowser   8 years ago

what's going on is that heaven on earth, the land of ten thousand lakes, is being butchered before our very eyes.

If we are to use our tools in the service of fitting in on Earth, our basic relationship to nature--even the story we tell ourselves about who we are in the universe--has to change.  Janine M. Benyus

Petey Coober
Freshman Silent
link   Petey Coober    8 years ago

I was under the impression that no-till farming could alleviate conditions caused by excessive fertilizer use ... right ?


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