Stormwater's hidden perils

by Peter LaFontaine

As more intense storms sweep through Minnesota, we're facing expensive stormwater issues with serious consequences for water quality. (Photo by Yu Tung Brian Chan: Lightning; CC BY-NC 2.0)

Disasters always seem more disastrous when they're deafening or high-powered, even though some of the most severe disasters are creeping and quiet, even, well ... boring.

While a term like "stormwater management" makes some of us want to immediately click back over to Twitter or ESPN (don't do that!), a recent feature article in the Star Tribune reveals the slowly-unfolding mayhem behind this term, including sewage emergencies, mega-storms, sandbagged lake houses and twelve billion-dollar price tags here in Minnesota.

As our climate changes and water infrastructure ages, the challenges of water management are becoming more severe. Ultimately, our changing climate means that Minnesota faces more — and more powerful — storms, so while we work to stop the fossil fuel emissions heating the planet, we also need to prepare for this new reality.

Nature's stormwater management systems

It's nice to imagine that we can invent our way out of this problem, but the reality is that nature already has better solutions than anything we could dream up.

Intact ecosystems like prairies can hold more rain, like a sponge. That's one reason why Friends of the Mississippi River is actively restoring places like Nicollet Island and North Minneapolis' Ole Olson Park.

We're also working to advance new cropping systems that are better at storing carbon (and rainfall) in the soil, and are advocating for much-needed funding to upgrade our aging water infrastructure to better handle the storms of the future. 

Read more on global warming impacts from FMR's Water Blog:

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