In 2007, resolve to have cleaner water

Only a few days remain to decide on your resolutions for 2007. It's time to ask yourself, what changes do you plan to make in your life to be happier, healthier and more productive in 2007? For years I made the same standard resolution: to lose weight. Then one year I decided my resolution would be to stop complaining about my weight and, low and behold, after a few complaint-free months I felt much happier and more self-confident. I guess sometimes you need to change your way of thinking about a problem to find the right solution.

As we prepare for 2007, I would like to suggest a resolution we can all work towards. Let's resolve to do what we can in our homes and in the workplace to protect water resources in Washington County. Let us resolve that we will maintain a steady supply of clean, fresh groundwater to drink and that we will have clear blue lakes for fishing and swimming. Let us resolve that our local rivers will remain unimpaired by salt and sand, oil and grease, pesticides and fertilizers.

Is this a realistic resolution? It is if we agree to work towards our goal of clean water together. Imagine for a moment that one neighbor on your street installs a rain garden in their yard. It would be a nice gesture, for sure, and it would save about 9,000 gallons of stormwater runoff from polluting local water bodies each year. Now, imagine that 20 of your neighbors install rain gardens next year. Suddenly, we are talking about 180,000 gallons of stormwater pollution prevented, and the impact begins to become visible on a watershed level scale.

In 2004, the St. Croix Basin Team, composed of representatives from federal, state and local units of government in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, issued a resolution to reduce phosphorus loading to the St. Croix River by 20 percent. What does this resolution mean? Given the fact that excess phosphorus causes algal growth, which in turn makes the water green and smelly, it means that we can look forward to clearer water in the near future. Secondly, it means that government agencies in both Minnesota and Wisconsin understand that there are some problems that are too big to solve alone. Because the St. Croix River forms half of the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota, it makes sense to involve both the states in its protection. The St. Croix phosphorus reduction goal, however, goes beyond bi-state cooperation. Recognizing the role of citizens, businesses, cities and counties in creating clean water, the goal names each of these groups as agents in pollution prevention. Reducing phosphorus loading by 20 percent will require counties to change the way they salt their highways, cities to change the way they zone new development and residents to change the way they manage their lawns and gardens.

As 2007 approaches, think about the ways you can protect water resources in your community. Perhaps you will decide to become a volunteer water monitor for a local lake. Maybe you would enjoy planting a border of native plants around your yard to capture stormwater runoff and attract birds and butterflies. Don't have much free time? Your resolution can be to support your City Council as they create new ordinances to protect sensitive water resources. I can't promise that we'll succeed by the end of next year, but at least we will feel better trying. Who knows, you might even lose weight in the process!

Angie Hong is an educator with the East Metro Water Resource Education Program. She can be reached at 651-275-1136 x. 35 angie.hong@mnwcd.org.

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