Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Minnesota needs a Water Czar!

It may be something in the air, or, more likely, the water. Last Thursday we wrote about The Water Wars. The next day the Star Tribune had a commentary by past and present leaders in Minnesota's environmental protection about "Water, water everywhere in Minnesota — but it needs help." I generally agree with the points made by Austin, Merriam et. al., but don't think they go far enough, nor do the [timid] goals in the 2014 Clean Water Road Map, particularly in light of the federal Clean Water Act goals.

upper St. Croix River
upper St. Croix River
Photo by J. Harrington

I took a look at the comments on the Commentary and it became clear that many Minnesotans are clueless about how the Clean Water Legacy Funds, and other Minnesota resources, are being used. The Clean Water Fund has summary and detailed reports, but they lack needed context, such as the broad (comprehensive) goals the Commentary calls for. The reports primarily reference the Legacy funding activities, which, I don't believe, are the only funds being used for water quality related projects. Furthermore, reading about funding for implementation of "Best Management Practices" makes me wonder if I should get paid for obeying traffic laws each time I drive. I'm not entirely being facetious here. The Governor has talked about funding for his "buffer bill." Where is the responsibility for farmers to not pollute the commons? It seems to be right down there with the domestic terrorists who've "appropriated" some of our public lands in Oregon claiming they have a "right" to them. I know there are farmers and ranchers who care about the land and waters that support them. There just don't seem to be enough in any given year.

Many months ago we suggested Minnesota might need a water czar. Now we're convinced of it. Instead of spending money applying band aids next session, how about establishing a Minnesota Water Resources Authority that combines all the disparate, fragmented actors under one roof and then adopt some bodacious goals for meeting water quality standards that are now about 30 to 40 years past due. More and more folks, including too many in the Minnesota legislature, are suggesting the best way to meet standards is to lower them. That doesn't work for wild rice or for children threatened by mercury or lead in their water.

Bottled Water

By Kim Dower

I go to the corner liquor store
for a bottle of water, middle
of a hectic day, must get out
of the office, stop making decisions,
quit obsessing does my blue skirt clash
with my hot pink flats; should I get
my mother a caregiver or just put her
in a home, and I pull open the glass
refrigerator door, am confronted
by brands—Arrowhead, Glitter Geyser,
Deer Park, spring, summer, winter water,
and clearly the bosses of bottled water:
Real Water and Smart Water—how different
will they taste? If I drink Smart Water
will I raise my IQ but be less authentic?
If I choose Real Water will I no longer
deny the truth, but will I attract confused,
needy people who’ll take advantage
of my realness by dumping their problems
on me, and will I be too stupid to help them
sort through their murky dilemmas?
I take no chances, buy them both,
sparkling smart, purified real, drain both bottles,
look around to see is anyone watching?
I’m now brilliantly hydrated.
Both real and smart my insides bubble
with compassion and intelligence
as I walk the streets with a new swagger,
knowing the world is mine.


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