By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
On Friday, Governor Tim Walz announced a proposal to leverage $300 million in state bonding dollars to upgrade and replace water infrastructure across Minnesota. This program, which would require passage by the Legislature in the coming session, would focus on helping Minnesota communities deal with the mounting costs of maintaining drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater systems that keep their residents healthy and safe.
“Every Minnesotan deserves access to clean water, yet that isn’t the case in many communities across the state, especially out in Greater Minnesota,” said Walz. The Governor framed the investments not only as a clean water initiative, but also as a jobs program and an important tool for climate resilience.
The Walz Administration is right in identifying and responding to this problem – infrastructure failures are a major source of drinking water pollution. Governor Walz and MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop rightly stressed that climate change is already having harmful impacts on both water quality and community safety. And general bonding is a financially responsible way to address many of these infrastructure needs.
The bonding proposal includes major funding for loans and grants for communities to build new water treatment and drainage systems, which can difficult for rural towns to afford on their own, to prevent harmful contamination of drinking water supplies. It offers $15 million for upgrades to make stormwater systems more resilient in the face of extreme weather events worsened by climate change – a critical need for many of Minnesota’s river communities that have suffered from severe flooding. In the proposal summary, the Walz Administration lists more than 60 possible projects in 31 Minnesota communities that could benefit from these water investments.
It includes $16.5 million for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which helps to set aside lands for natural landscapes that help clean up water and provide habitat for wildlife. This program is a key tool for reducing and filtering fertilizer runoff, a contributor to groundwater contamination that threatens many communities and well owners.
We’re excited to see the Walz Administration unveil this proposal, and MEP will advocate for strong bonding investments in clean water infrastructure and climate resilience this session. We’ll also ask Legislature to confront the other roots of what plagues many Minnesota’s access to drinking water across the state: agricultural and industrial pollution.
When it comes to clean water, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (if not more!) We’re heartened to see the Walz Administration pushing for proactive measures to address water contamination and climate change impacts. We hope to see it coupled with a strong push to center our precious water resources and the people who rely on them in decisions on clean agriculture, mining, climate action, and land use. 100% clean water is achievable in Minnesota – if we’re committed to working for it.