Why MN should turn on the tap for clean water funding
In late January, Governor Mark Dayton unveiled a $1.5 billion bonding proposal for public works projects throughout Minnesota, which includes a proposal for $167 million in critically needed funding for clean water projects throughout the state. This week, two Republican legislators, Senator Gary Dahms and Representative Dean Urdahl, introduced a bipartisan bill to allocate that funding – which would financially support communities in need of assistance in tackling their water infrastructure challenges. Though this issue tends to have a low profile, it’s absolutely critical to the health and well-being of Minnesotans statewide.
When we turn on a faucet or use a drain, we tend not to consider where our water comes from – or where it’s going. Only when the water turns off or darkens with pollution, or when our regular bills spike in cost, do many of us think about how our most precious natural resource is made safe and usable. Both drinking water and wastewater treatment are vital to our health and well-being, as well as the natural ecosystems around us. Diseases like cholera that once ravaged entire cities are now virtually unheard of in the United States thanks to long-term investments in our pipes and treatment systems.
Sadly, many of our communities are struggling with aging, obsolete infrastructure that is deteriorating and can’t meet standards for health or pollution protection. Rural towns and tribal communities are in especially dire need of upgrades and maintenance in the short and long term, and in many cases, the cost of this work is unaffordable without state or federal aid. It’s estimated that over the next 20 years, our state will need to $11 billion in funds for water infrastructure improvements. Those bills can’t simply be passed along to our rural communities.
That’s why we’re glad to see a bipartisan push for state funding that will, along with federal investments, greatly reduce the burden on our cities and counties to bring safe water treatment for every Minnesotan. This effort can help heal the more than 4,600 lakes in our state with impaired water, boosting our economy and our ecosystems. We should hold our water infrastructure to high standards – and make sure that our communities have all the resources they need to protect our water.