Policy and a Pint®: Water, Water Everywhere, But...

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Policy and a Pint
Steve Seel at Policy and a Pint: How are we taking care of Mom? at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall. (MPR / Nate Ryan)

The abundance of fresh and clean water has long held a prominent place in the "quality of life" enjoyed by many Minnesotans. Water is at the heart of a thriving tourism industry and cabin culture. From Rainy Lake to the Mississippi River to Lake Louise, Minnesota's waters is the scenic backdrop to bike rides, canoe excursions and the essential raw material for good craft beer. But the threats to this important resource — from pollution, to overuse, to climate change, and an eroding infrastructure (think Flint's aging pipes) — are such that many state leaders are calling for a deeper commitment to protect water quantity and quality.

Host Steve Seel is joined by Steve Woods, Executive Director of the Freshwater Society, Shannon Lotthammer from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Lark Weller from the National Park Service about the state of water in the Twin Cities: what are the biggest threats, what is currently being done, and what can each of us can do in our own community to improve the odds that clean, abundant fresh water will continue to buoy our quality of life well into the 21st century and beyond.

Listen to the conversation above, or download the MP3. Find choice quotes from the discussion below.

On water contaminates:

"We have some new types of contaminates that we either didn't know about or in some cases couldn't measure before. I'm thinking about things like pharmaceuticals, personal care products, things that we use as consumers that we send down the drain. We need to think about consumer choices, we need to think about what's going into products because we all know just from our day-to-day activities that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If we can stop ii from going down the drain in the first place it's going to be likely less expensive than pulling it from waste water in the end even if there is technology available." – Shannon Lotthammer, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

On the cost of water:

"The fact that it's so cheap makes it invisible and if we're concerned about prices changing. I think this begs the question of having a more authentic conversation around the true costs and benefits of water and the way we're paying for it right now." – Lark Weller, National Park Service

"We need more of the municipal utilities charging the full cost of water. By that I mean, the amount they already charge typically for pumping it up, treating it, storing it, and distributing it, but also they should be including some incentives for efficiencies." – Steve Woods, Freshwater Society

On the future of water levels:

"The Metropolitan Council and DNR have a lot of observation wells that are just sunk in to measure ground water levels and they tell us that just about half of those wells in the Twin Cities area are showing long-term, multi-decade declines in ground water levels and you can't doing that, particularly if you want to keep adding population." – Steve Woods, Freshwater Society

On agriculture's role:

"The Minnesota River drains a largely agricultural portion of the state and we have asked a lot of agriculture for more and more production and we're paying the consequences." – Lark Weller, National Park Service

Funded by Target, Policy and a Pint® is an event series cosponsored by The Current and the Citizens League that engages people in important conversations about public policy in Minnesota.

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