Our 2019 Legislative Priority: The Minnesota Water Bill

by Trevor Russell
The Minnesota Water Bill calls for 100% clean, safe and affordable water by 2050. Join us on April 10, 2019, Water Action Day, to rally for this goal and more.
 

This session, FMR and our coalition partners are teaming up to advance a new way forward for clean water in Minnesota: The Minnesota Water Bill.

The Minnesota Water Bill seeks to set a clear and ambitious goal for clean water, paired with nonpartisan and realistically achievable policy and funding initiatives to help us get there.

This approach was developed by the Minnesota Water Cluster, a statewide coalition of water advocacy organizations, and earned the support of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership.

Here's a brief summary of this four-part legislative package.

Article One: Set Minnesota’s clean water goal

Article one sets a new goal for our state: Minnesota will achieve 100% clean, safe and affordable water by 2050.

We believe that all Minnesota waters should meet basic health standards. Our rivers, lakes and groundwater should be healthy and all our drinking water should be 100% safe to drink. Achieving this goal will be a challenge, but we're confident Minnesotans know how to meet hard challenges. We're the home of clean water — it's time to protect it!

Article Two: Simple bipartisan policy changes for clean water

Article two features a few policy reforms that can pass through a divided government to protect our water.

  • Adjust the Safe Drinking Water Fee: It’s time to increase the annual safe drinking water fee from $6.36 to $9.72 per connection. The current fee was set in 2005 and inflation has increased 28% since. This important funding source allows the Minnesota Department of Health to test water, review water treatment plants, train and certify water system operators, inspect water systems and solve critical drinking water problems.
  • Prevent salt pollution: We need to reduce the amount of salt polluting our waters — a growing (and permanent) pollutant in metro-area lakes and wetlands. Under this bill, Minnesota will establish a statewide “smart salt” training and certification program offering liability protection for certified private applicators. Improved snow and ice management can make our streets safer, our water healthier and save taxpayers millions in reduced salting costs.
  • Truth in labeling for “flushable” wipes: Some improperly disposed wipes clog wastewater treatment systems, requiring expensive and time-consuming maintenance for communities already struggling with the costs of wastewater treatment. This legislation would require disposable wipes labeled as “flushable” to meet industry standards so as to avoid harming wastewater treatment systems.
  • Renew the Legislative Water Commission: The bipartisan Legislative Water Commission will sunset soon. This bill will extend the commission for another six years, allowing legislators time to work collaboratively to solve difficult water challenges facing our state.

Article Three: Invest in clean water

Article three includes critical investments in infrastructure, research and conservation.

  • Fully fund Forever Green: $7.5 million per year in General Fund support for the University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative will develop new crops that protect our water while maintaining farm profitability.
  • Fund a new drinking water protection program (Phase II): $8.0 million will push the next phase of the “Working Lands Drinking Water Protection Program”. Statewide, roughly 118,000 acres of highly vulnerable wellhead protection areas are currently in row crops — putting public water supplies at risk. This effort will help farmers plant and sell alternative crops that protect drinking water while maintaining farm profitability on these most vulnerable acres.
  • Fund water infrastructure: $102.65 million in state General Obligation bonds for much-needed wastewater and drinking water treatment systems statewide
  • Fully fund land conservation: $44 million in state General Obligation bonds for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), an important land conservation program
  • Protect the Clean Water Fund: Allocate the Clean Water Fund (Legacy Amendment money for water) as recommended by the state’s nonpartisan Clean Water Council

Article Four: Restore our trust; Repeal the Trust Fund raid.

Article four includes language to repeal the 2018 Legislature’s raid on dedicated environmental funding. Minnesota’s voter-approved Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) uses lottery money to fund special environmental projects. However, in 2018 $98 million was taken from the Trust Fund for projects ordinarily paid for by state bonds.

This article will allow legislators to respect the will of voters and repay the Trust Fund, while funding last year’s projects through traditional means.

Want to get involved?

Your voice is essential to our efforts to protect, restore and enhance the Mississippi River. Here are three ways you can keep up to date this legislative session and help us advocate for clean water in Minnesota.

Join us for Water Action Day

Save the date for our third annual Water Action Day on April 10, 2019. This is Minnesota's day to let our lawmakers know we care about our water.

This event will include free breakfast, followed by briefings on policy goals and trainings on how to influence your legislators.

Throughout the day, participants can attend group meetings with their legislators, participate in a youth summit, attend important hearings on our priority bills and join in the #ProtectOurWater rally in the Capitol Rotunda.

Registration will begin on January 15, 2019 on our event page. We look forward to seeing YOU at the Capitol on Water Action Day 2019!

Become a River Guardian

Sign up to become a River Guardian, and we'll email you when an important river issue arises and make it quick and easy to contact decision makers. River Guardians are also invited to special events, including happy hours, about important legislative and metro river corridor.

Read our Legislative Updates blog

FMR will once again offer regular updates on key environment and water quality issues on our legislative page. Check back for news, follow us on social media (Facebook and Twitter), or sign up for our bimonthly e-newsletter, Mississippi Messages.