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  • HDT Team

A Drop in the Bucket

World Water Day is March 22. This annual United Nations Observance celebrates water and raises awareness of the two billion people currently living without access to safe water. Each year on World Water Day, the United Nations and partners release a report tied to a chosen theme. For 2022, the focus is on groundwater.

Groundwater supplies 75% of Minnesota’s drinking water and 90% of water used for agricultural irrigation. Among the key messages about groundwater are several that definitely apply to those who live in Minnesota:

  • Almost all of the liquid freshwater in the world is groundwater, supporting drinking water supplies, sanitation systems, farming, industry and ecosystems.

  • What we do on the surface matters underground. We must only put harmless, biodegradable products on the soil and use water as efficiently as possible.

  • Groundwater will play a critical role in adapting to climate change. We must protect and explore groundwater, balancing the needs of people and the planet.

And taking care of our own groundwater is doing our part to take care of what has been called “Earth’s life support system.” Did you know a raindrop falling in Lake Itasca, part of the headwaters of the Mississippi, arrives downstream at the Gulf of Mexico in approximately 90 days? The fact is, we are all connected by our water systems.

Know Your Watershed

In Minnesota, monitoring and protecting our water quality is done through a watershed approach. This approach allows for “hyper local” data to be gathered and action to be taken that specifically takes into account factors such as landscape diversity and geographic complexity.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency works in collaboration with local governments — including soil and water conservation districts, watershed districts, and counties as well as other state agencies, citizen groups, and Tribes--to monitor and assess water quality and then develop Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS).

The data compiled in WRAPS by the MPCA is used to develop One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) plans in the State of Minnesota. This reduces the need for further assessment and monitoring. Headed by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, 1W1P initiatives take a watershed approach to water planning, versus previous efforts based on county or other political boundaries. 1W1Ps are developed with significant citizen input and led by elected officials who work and live in or near the watershed.

Large parts of Happy Dancing Turtle’s readership is either in Pine River or the Driftless area watersheds. Great news–-both those areas are participating in 1W1P initiatives. That means local citizens help shape the plans and you have access to data about your local watershed and up-to-date information on what’s being done to protect it.

Pine River’s 1W1P has been in place since 2019. Learn how the plan was developed here. In addition, there is an advocacy group called the Pine River Watershed Alliance. The Pine River Watershed Alliance (PRWA) is a citizen-led volunteer organization that works with local units of government and other agencies to preserve and protect the local environment while meeting resident needs for economic development and a healthy community. You can meet them at the upcoming Back to Basics Spring Fair!

In the Driftless Region, the 1W1P is currently being developed. That means YOU have the opportunity to get involved! There are several “Watershed Chats” scheduled to get community input for the plan. Learn more about the WinLaC Partnership (Winona LaCrescent) here.

This interactive and informative map about all of Minnesota’s watersheds is available from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

A Drop in the Bucket Makes a Difference

Minnesota has an acre of water for each 20 acres of land. Six percent of the state is covered with water–more than any other state. But that doesn’t make Water Stewardship any less important.

  • Fix that leaky faucet–it can waste as many as 2,700 gallons per year

  • Don’t run water while brushing teeth, washing your face, or shaving

  • If you have a septic tank, have it inspected regularly

  • Feature native plants instead of grass in your yard

  • Use rain barrels or plant a rain garden

  • Limit use of fertilizers in lawns and gardens–look for phosphorus-free ones

  • Get involved in local policy, like the 1W1P initiative

  • Garden by following the soil health principles, and buy from farmers who work to build soil health. Healthy soil better infiltrates, purifies, and stores water, allowing it to recharge groundwater aquifers with clean water.

Want to learn even more? Last year for World Water Day, our colleague Colin Mclain wrote a post about the commodification of water–check it out here.


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