Editorial: Ignoring state’s water quality problem not the solution

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My father, Bruce Dayton, taught me that good stewardship is one of our most important responsibilities: to take what we have been given, or have acquired, and leave it in better condition for those who will inherit it from us.

As Minnesotans, who have inherited this incredible state, we have no greater shared responsibility than our stewardship: to protect and improve the priceless natural resources, which we will pass on to our children and grandchildren. That wise stewardship is everyone’s challenge and everyone’s opportunity.

Tragically, in recent years, the quality of our water has deteriorated in many parts of our state. Too many lakes, rivers, streams, and ditches have become contaminated with potentially dangerous chemicals. In some communities, the surface and underground waters our citizens use for drinking, washing, work, and recreation are no longer safe.

There are a couple of contradictory trends here. The first is that as a state we are doing more and more to protect and improve our water quality. We are spending more public and private resources to achieve this important goal. The second, however, is that our water has become more polluted and less safe in many areas.

Those contradictions tell me two things. One, we’re not doing enough to correct the problems. And two, we’re doing too much to cause the problems.

They are simple conclusions. But in our complex environment, there are often no simple solutions. And there is often disagreement about how best to achieve them.

But ignoring our water quality problem is not the solution. Doing nothing will only make matters worse, by allowing problems to turn into crises. That is what happened in Flint, Michigan. We cannot let it happen here.

Which is why I have declared this week to be "Water Action Week" in Minnesota.

I challenge everyone to take actions that will lead to a new era of clean water in Minnesota.

1. Learn about your water quality. Visit our Water Action Week web page at

http://mn.gov/governor, to learn more about the water quality challenges in your community. Test the water in your well. Ask your local officials what they are doing to protect or improve the quality of the water you and your family rely upon.

2. Teach your children about clean water, and let them teach you. Talk with your children or grandchildren about the importance of water in our lives. A great place to start is

www.h2oforlifeschools.org, where you can find simple lesson plans, watch short videos, and find new ways to improve water quality.

3. Set a water conservation goal. Fixing leaky pipes in your home, turning off the water when brushing your teeth, or using less fertilizer on your lawn are just some of the small changes that will add up to big improvements in our state’s water quality.

4. Call your legislators. This session, I have a proposed a $220 million down-payment on some of the clean water upgrades urgently needed to provide safe drinking water in communities throughout Minnesota. I encourage you to review my proposal at http://mn.gov/governor. If you agree that it deserves top priority, please call your legislators and encourage them to support those important investments to improve our state’s aging water infrastructure. You can find out how to contact your legislator by using the "Who Represents Me?" tool at www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts.

We can preserve the best of what we have in Minnesota by behaving responsibly. By being wise stewards, we can bequeath clean water to future generations. My water quality initiatives are not intended to take anything away from anyone. I’m not trying to take away anyone’s property, or livelihood, or happiness. 

But I do want to preserve all of that for everyone else. It is my responsibility as the chief executive of this state, and it’s your responsibility as a citizen of this state. It will require all of us working together to achieve our goal.

Failure is not an option.