University of Minnesota Releases Nation's First Long-Term Plan for Statewide Water Sustainability
State legislature commissioned report on all aspects of water resources and quality
The University of Minnesota's Water Resources Center has authored a first-ever comprehensive report designed to protect and preserve Minnesota's lakes, rivers and groundwater for the 21st century and beyond. The report was formally presented to the Minnesota House of Representative's Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee today.
The Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework, commissioned by the 2009 Minnesota Legislature, is intended to serve as a legislative roadmap with timelines and benchmarks for future investments in water resources, including the estimated $86 million a year dedicated for the protection of water as a result of Minnesota's Clean Water, Land and Legacy Act.
The 150-page report is the result of more than 18 months of cross-organizational, interdisciplinary input from more than 250 experts from federal, state, local and tribal governments, private industry, agricultural interests, universities and environmental agencies. The report also includes feedback from more than 5,000 taxpayers who participated in an online survey and statewide listening sessions held in January and February of last year.
In response to its legislative charge, the report addresses a range of water-related issues including drinking water quality, storm water management, agricultural and industrial water use, surface and groundwater interactions, ecological needs, invasive species and Minnesota's water infrastructure system—all within the context of changing climate, demographics and land use and development.
Specific recommendations include:
• A comprehensive survey of Minnesota's groundwater resources to understand what is available and how current withdrawals are impacting the long-term supply;
• An overhaul of the state's water permitting process that would include an electronic database and a method of calculating the ecological impact of water withdrawals;
• A mandatory statewide plan to decrease nutrient runoff from agricultural sources—a key to the plan being farmer-led, performance-based Agricultural Management Areas organized along the state's 45 watershed districts that would provide technical resources and incentives;
• Promotion of "green" chemistry through incentives for industry and consumer education and advocacy to prevent future water contamination;
• Integrated water and land sustainability planning at the watershed level; and
• The restructuring of municipal water pricing to more accurately reflect the ecological, as well as infrastructure, costs of water use.
The legislature is expected to vote upon some of the report's recommendations in this legislative session. The report is available at wrc.umn.edu.