U group to develop plan for water management

University of Minnesota professor Deborah Swackhamer and the Water Resources Center will help lead a coalition in developing a 25 year plan to manage Minnesota’s water.

by Raghav Mehta

A new task force led by a University of Minnesota professor will help lay out the framework for the annual disbursal of $86 million to support water conservation projects around the state. The UniversityâÄôs Water Resources Center was awarded $750,000 by the Legislature to develop a 25 year plan for the management of MinnesotaâÄôs water resources. Director of the Water Resources Center and University professor Deborah Swackhamer will help lead the Headwaters Council, a group comprised of business leaders, former state-agency employees and other water experts, in developing the plan. “We’re constructing [the group] from not just NGOs [non-governmental organizations] but from government agencies, local units of government, soil and water districts from all parts of the state, so we can make sure we have a geographic representation.” Swackhamer said. The plan will present guidelines for the spending of the approximately $86 million expected to be generated annually through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. The amendment, passed last November, raised the state sales taxes three-eighths of a percent with the resulting revenue funding water and land conservation and the arts. The councilâÄôs plan is scheduled to be presented to the Legislature by January 2011 and will lay out water evaluation and monitoring techniques intended to address a number of pressing issues such as drinking water, ground water and surface water pollution and the effects of climate change. âÄúWe want to provide recommendations that would lead to an integrated approach to managing water as well as sustainability,” Swackhamer said. The plan also intends to uncover the state of Minnesota’s groundwater supply. Swackhamer said drinking water and industrial and agricultural water are currently monitored and managed by independent agencies, leaving citizens with no idea about the amount of “water we’re using relative to how much is being replenished.” Chair of the Head Waters Council Steve Morse said his major objective in developing the framework is to establish a plan with clear goals and milestones laid out so state agencies and officials can measure their progress and see if the money is being used efficiently. By adhering to these standards, Morse, who is also the executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership , said the framework can ensure success where other plans have fallen short. “We’ve spent many, many years and millions, even billions of dollars [on water management], without focusing as well as we should have and not getting the results we hoped for,” he said.