Water, water everywhere

Lawmakers should act on a report that waters are below quality standards.

Daily Editorial Board

The state of Minnesota has 11,842 lakes, yet Minnesotans may be running out of good water. An extensive new survey and analysis of the stateâÄôs waters rightly suggests we shouldnâÄôt get complacent about our most important resource in the Land of Lakes. It says, among other things, that about 40 percent of the stateâÄôs waters fail to meet quality standards.

The Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework was commissioned by the 2009 State Legislature and helmed by University of Minnesota researcher Deborah Swackhamer. It offers “a 25-year plan to protect, conserve, and enhance the quantity and quality of the stateâÄôs groundwater and surface water.” Presented in draft form earlier this month, it goes to the new Legislature in January.

The comprehensive report is an exemplar of cross-organizational and interdisciplinary collaboration, bringing together over 200 experts from federal, state, local and tribal governments; the private and nonprofit sectors; agriculture and academia.

Even budget hawks should be happy with the framework, much of which should be paid for with funds allocated by the 2008 Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the state Constitution.

Minnesota should be renowned not just for the quantity of its waters but for their quality. The Water Sustainability Framework provides a clear path toward that goal, one that ought to inspire both popular and legislative support.

At best, we have an opportunity here to lead the nation in long-term, forward-thinking resource management. At worst, we could find ourselves in the same maddening predicament as English poet Samuel Taylor ColeridgeâÄôs ancient mariner, lost at sea: “Water, water, everywhere/Nor any drop to drink.”