Cleaning up Minnesota’s mucky waters


by Trent Wells | August 7, 2009 • Here in Minnesota we have so many great bodies of water that it is easy to forget about some of the rotten ones. Farm runoff is one of the main factors in a trail of polluted rivers and streams all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. Anyone who has been in or around these bodies of water in Minnesota can attest to the damage the pollution has done.

Hindsight is the official blog of Minnesota 2020. Hindsight gives the run down on the news that jumps out at us on the issues that matter. Often times these stories show us how much further we need to go to have the progressive policy realized in Minnesota.

Growing up in Olmsted County, I’ve had the privilege of swimming in the Scumbro, excuse me, the Zumbro River and living to tell the tale. What was once a beautiful, slow and winding river is now a nasty, mucky dump. Thus, I couldn’t be happier to hear a couple of different stories about cleaning up Minnesota’s rivers.

The first story deals directly with the Zumbro River. Terry Klampe of Rochester thinks he has found the reason the Zumbro River has become so polluted. Klampe has filed a complaint with Olmsted County that it is not properly enforcing a law that requires farmers plant their crops at least 50 feet from bodies of water. Studies have found buffer zones to be highly effective at reducing water pollution. Buffers prevent half of fertilizers and pesticides and 75 percent sediment from entering the water.

It turns out farmers have another way to reduce their runoff as well. Some Minnesota farmers have begun using a runoff control system that functions like a dam. The controlled-drainage system prevents up to 80% of nitrate and phosphate from leaving the farm. Studies have shown that the runoff prevention system also increases yields by up to 10% depending on the type of crop.

If Minnesota does a better job of promoting buffer zones and controlled-drainage systems, it will go a long way towards making sure that future generations of Minnesota don’t have to swim in scum-filled rivers.

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