Water contamination in Flint, Michigan has sparked a growing concern about water quality and water infrastructure across the country. The conversations around water quality issues have become more prominent in Minnesota as Governor Mark Dayton has recently convened the state’s first Water Summit, raising awareness and opening dialogues around Minnesota water supply challenges. While Minnesota water is generally safe for consumption, there are rising challenges that require a closer look at the water supply as well as the infrastructure.
In contrast to the mismanagement and cost-cutting measures that caused the Flint water contamination crisis, the problem in Minnesota tends to stem from groundwater and surface quality, as they are the major water supply in the state. Main contaminants such as arsenic and nitrate are naturally occurring; however, Minnesota community water systems (CWS) are constantly monitoring these contaminants and will reduce the level of contaminant if it is higher than what the EPA has suggested.
Minnesota water is generally safe to use, especially if it comes from community water systems where the Minnesota Department of Health’s Drinking Water Protection program ensures that water quality meets Safe Drinking Water Standards (SDWS). In certain areas, residents who rely on non-community water systems may be exposed to emerging risks such as high nitrate pollution from fertilization or runoff from agricultural activities and septic systems. Arsenic contamination also appears problematic in the west and southwest of the state, which affects residents who use water from private wells or non-community water systems.
The Land of 10,000 Lakes is also facing pollution problems in its lakes and streams. A recent story from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reports that the majority of surface water bodies in southwest Minnesota are not safe for supporting aquatic life and recreation due to the high nitrate, bacteria, and sediment levels. This will undoubtedly affect Minnesotans’ way of life as lakes become unfishable and unswimmable.
A widespread concern on water quality calls for action and close monitoring, even if Minnesota’s water quality situation isn’t nearly as bad as in Flint, Michigan.