News & Updates

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.

Water pump

Updating our water infrastructure could prevent a crisis like Flint, MI

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.

Arsenic level

Percent of private wells that have arsenic levels higher than the EPA drinking water standard in Minnesota by county

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.

Big Debt, Big Deal

Minnesota is living under a $27 billion mountain of student loan debt.1 A student graduating in Minnesota today has an average of $31,000 in debt.2 Whether we realize it or not, it is affecting both individuals and the broader community. The challenge of student loan...

Minnesota Business Tax Rate Equals U.S. Average

Business groups—including the Minnesota Business Partnership and Minnesota Chamber of Commerce—actively cultivate the notion that business taxes in the Gopher State are high relative to the rest of the nation. However, total state and local business taxes as a share...

Ensure Respect for Minimum Wage Laws

(Note: This article is co-authored with Laura Huizar, a staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project in Washington, D.C.) A few weeks ago, the St. Paul City Council introduced a draft ordinance that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. That’s a...

Caring in Central Minnesota

Minnesota is getting older every day.1 The aging of our population is increasing demand for home health and personal care workers. We also continue to have population growth through both immigration and natural growth. To fill the needs of our changing population we...

Gas Tax Buys One-Third Less Today Than in 2000

The single largest source of funding for Minnesota’s transportation system comes from the state gas tax. However, the purchasing power of that tax has dropped by over one-third over the course of the century, leaving funding for state roads and bridges in a precarious...

State Aids: The Shrinking Slice of the City Revenue Pie

City property taxes have increased significantly in recent decades. Even after adjusting for inflation and population growth, the property taxes collected by Minnesota cities have increased by 48% from 1990 to 2018. However, real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) per capita...

Government Growth in Context

Shocking claims of growth in government abound. However, viewed in context of the economic, demographic, and societal changes that have occurred over the last fifty years, the growth in government is far less astounding than the sound-bite statistics indicate. For...

Impact of Legislative Decisions on School Funding

State aid to Minnesota school districts—properly adjusted for inflation—has fluctuated significantly over the last fifteen years, but the overall trend has been downward, as documented in a recent North Star report. Of course, long-term trends are not exclusively the...

Minnesota’s Shared Health

Minnesotans value a high quality of life. It is part of the Minnesota story and one of our competitive advantages. This includes having healthy people in healthy communities. Historically, policy makers have recognized the importance of health care access by investing...

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