2019 World Water Day

We love lakes! Keep them clean.

We love lakes, we love rivers and streams, and we love our oceans.  March 22, is World Water Day.  Clean water is a human right and should be available to every human being.  Unfortunately, some of us have too much water, but many don’t have enough water, and the water they have is polluted.  I am lucky to live in a place with lots of water, but it is a struggle to keep it clean. Many live with polluted wells and water from farm pollution. Why they have allowed farm run-off to pollute their wells is beyond me??? The farming industry has gotten away with polluting our water, and for some reason they now think they have that right. Where I live, farm run-off is the number one cause for the pollution of our water ways and ground water. Lack of regulation on agriculture can harm water resources when raising pork, beef and other livestock, along with sugar beets, corn and soy beans.

There are industrial cities like Houston, Texas, that allow industry to pollute air and water.  Stronger regulation is needed to stop water and air pollution, but that is not happening in the United States anytime soon.

Agriculture and industry are major water pollutants, but so is plastic. As the spring flooding overflows the banks of creeks and rivers the winter trash is getting washed off the land, into our waterways, then into our oceans. With some personal responsibility we all can make a difference with our behavior to water.

The Mississippi River water shed is flooding carrying plastic and farm pollution to the gulf of Mexico. Graphic by Jon Platek
What can we do to keep our water clean?

On this World Water Day weekend I challenge you to go meatless, I challenge you to go plastic-free, and I challenge you to get outside and pick up trash.

A Simple Idea to Improve Water

How can you keep rainwater in your yard?

It’s raining where I live. Do you ever wonder where all that rainwater goes? Our earth naturally manages rainwater, drainage, and wetlands, and it is able to naturally purify and clean our water. Unfortunately, we created an impossible situation with our concrete urbanization and all the chemicals we use. Instead of allowing the rain to fall and soak into the ground we get it away from our houses and buildings as fast as we can sending water rushing down our storm drains into our lakes and rivers. As this water cascades over concrete and asphalt it picks up chemicals, pollutants, trash, lawn clippings and leaves which wash into our lakes, rivers, and oceans.

This is a classic example if everyone were to do just a bit to give some of this natural cleaning back to the earth, it would make a big difference in our water quality.

No one wants a wet basement, so always keep water 10 feet from your house or apartment, but beyond the 10 feet you can do many water managements things with a few flexible downspout extensions which you can purchase at hardware stores.

Below is an excellent blog from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization on a very simple way to use some of the water running off your home, and making a big difference for water quality.

 

From the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization : “Your goal, as an eco-friendly house-dweller, is to soak as much of that water into the ground as possible. The soil will filter out the pollutants and the water will move downward until it reaches the water table. As a bonus, any plants, trees or other vegetation in the area will soak up a portion of the water to use as fuel.”  Read the entire blog here.

The Mississippi River Shed drains much of the United States

The same thing can be accomplished on agricultural land that uses buffer strips of trees and deep-rooted plants along ponds and streams.   These buffer strips absorb the chemicals!  The Gulf of Mexico thanks you! Read at Gulf

The Mighty Mississippi

Leaves pollute our waterways!
Leaves pollute our waterways!

What we do to our land, we do to our river”  John Stein MPCA Commissioner

The Mississippi River, one of the longest rivers in the world begins in Minnesota and flows south into the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River cuts the United States in half, into the east and the west.  An investigative report by the Minneapolis Startribune.com. reveals the environmental threats to the Mississippi River caused by agricultural pollution  and urban run-off. Many communities use the Mississippi River as their source of drinking water.  If we are polluting this great river at the head waters what is the future for all of us, and for the wildlife that also uses this river?  What is the future of the Gulf of Mexico as the Mississippi River carries pollution during its journey south?  What will be the state of drinking water through the middle of the United States?

 We all need to do better.
We all need to do better.

The storm drains on my street drain into the Mississippi. What we do on the land affects the Mississippi River.  As a trained water steward, I am encouraging urban dwellers to manage the run-off from their yards in a smarter way.  There is a new paradigm. Instead of getting the water off our land we are looking for ways to use water run-off by redirecting our gutters and down-spouts, and building rain gardens to capture the rainfall.

Not using chemicals, sweeping our sidewalks and streets, re-directing our down-spouts, building rain gardens, picking up trash, and recycling are just a few things the urban dweller can do to help the Mississippi River.  Agricultural interests are another thing, and they need to do their part. Part 3 of this series focuses on farmers along the Chippewa River giving hope:

“Raising the amount of land planted in such perennials by just 10 percentage points — from 24 percent to 34 percent of the Chippewa watershed’s 1.3 million acres — would be enough to tip the river from polluted to clean.

Some 25 landowners now participate, and if they can prove its premise — that a farmer can make money without polluting the Chippewa — they could be a model for protecting threatened rivers all across the Midwest.” Read part 3 report here.

A fun video on building a rain garden:

What happened to our “Sky Blue” waters?

Is this how lakes should look? We all need to do better.
Is this how lakes should look? We all need to do better.

Minnesota, the land of “Sky Blue Waters” is adding more than 300 lakes, rivers and streams to its list of lakes and streams that are impaired. The story from MPR is here.

About two-thirds of Minnesota watersheds have been tested and 40 percent of Minnesota rivers and lakes have been found to be impaired by farm runoff, bacteria, mercury or other pollutants.

 

The below ideas for protecting our lakes is from the Superiorforum.org , Sigurd Olson Institute, Northland college, and the EPA, and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:
1 .Be conservative with your water use.
2. Recycle as much as you can with the 4 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair. And….NEVER burn trash.
3. Curb Yard Pollution. Put your lawn on a chemical-free diet!!
4. Stop aquatic invasives by cleaning plants and animals off your boat.
5. Plant native plants, and reduce turf grass.
6. Plant native trees According to Audubon, oak trees are the best for attracting insects and birds.
7. Install a rain barrel
8. Create an energy-efficient home.
9. Bring hazardous waste to waste collection sites.
10. Love our lakes!

I would add several more:
1. Rain gardens are excellent for capturing harmful water runoff.
2. Keep leaves and trash out of streets and storm drains-Adopt a storm drain!

Love our lakes, rivers and streams. Take care of them!

Love our lakes, rivers and streams. Take care of them!

3. Never use cleaning products or hand sanitizer with triclosan.
4. Reduce all plastic use–If you must use plastic bags and bottles, be sure you recycle them.                                                  5. Pick up all liter.

 

 

 

Ready for City Composting?

Backyard Compost Collection
Backyard Compost Collection  This is now frozen and covered by snow.

http://www.startribune.com/four-things-to-know-before-you-get-your-new-minneapolis-organics-bin/366901451/

Food waste composes about 30% of our landfill waste. If left to rot in landfills it can create green house gases, and if it is burned, it pollutes the air. We can change food waste into a new healthy material for our gardens and plants. The end result of food waste is compost. No fertilizer or chemicals needed with compost!
I am thrilled my city, Minneapolis, is beginning to collect food waste for composting. You need to sign up for a cart by February 1, 2016.
Below is a great video about commercial composting:

What do you use to collect food waste?
What do you use to collect food waste?

If you have participated in commercial composting in your city, give us some tips to help us learn about it.

Sick, Unhealthy Lakes

Buffer strips along lakes protect water quality.
Buffer strips along lakes protect water quality.

Minnesota is home to over 10,000 lakes. We love our lakes. Unfortunately, we don’t take personal responsibility for protecting the beauty and health of our precious lakes. One of the most popular lakes is covered with trash, and it has become impossible to educate anglers (Are they listening?) of the invasive species their boats carry from lake to lake.
In late June, I was biking through southern Minnesota and was appalled to see algae and milfoil covered lakes. Sometimes they look weedy in August, but this was June?

The largest Minnesota newspaper published an opinion piece about what is happening to our lakes. The authors think the lakes of southern Minnesota are a lost cause, but they think more should be done to keep northern lakes clean.  I think with tougher rules and strict enforcement all lakes can be kept healthy and usable. It is a matter of political will and setting priorities. With tougher rules and strict enforcement all lakes can be kept healthy and usable. At the bottom of this post there is a list of things I do on my lake property to protect water quality.

Unfortunately, agriculture was given a pass on the Clean Water Act and they should be better regulated.  Agricultural run off is a real problem, but everyone needs to do better.  This is the only water we will ever have and we should respect and value every water body.

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Brian Peterson • Star Tribune If 75 percent of lakeshore remains mainly forested, the chance of maintaining lake quality is good, said Peter Jacobson of the state’s Department of Natural Resources. But when natural cover falls below 60 percent, lakes begin to deteriorate.

The opinion article:  “There is no mystery about what is needed: a built environment that harmonize with nature rather than defying it”  http://www.startribune.com/from-runoff-to-ruin-the-undoing-of-minnesota-s-lakes/321099071/

Is this how lakes should look?
Is this how lakes should look?

Requirements all lake shore/stream property owners should follow:

*Buffer strips of plants and trees along the shoreline. Absolutely no mowing down to the water.

*If there is no sewer available, lake shore properties should be required to maintain a sewage holding tank.

*Wash boats and equipment with hot water before entering a new lake with your boat.

*Reduce or eliminate the chemicals you use in your home, yard and water.

*Recycle, pick up trash and never litter.

*Never never burn garbage.

Two letters from the editor on the same topic: http://www.startribune.com/readers-write-aug-16-minnesota-s-lakes-planned-parenthood-payday-lending/321926671/