Making the most of the Governor's Water Summit

Governor Dayton opening the first ever MN Water Summit

Gov. Mark Dayton delivers the opening remarks of Minnesota's first-ever Governor's Water Summit.

When over 800 Minnesotans gather in a windowless basement on the first beautiful spring-like day, there must be a compelling reason. In this case the reason was water. Residents of the Land of 10,000 Lakes showed up in droves to show their care and concern at the Governor's Water Summit, including, of course FMR, our fellow water protection colleagues, and a core group of FMR River Protectors.

Saturday, February 27, Gov. Mark Dayton and his administration hosted the first-ever Governor's Water Summit in downtown St. Paul. The goal was to bring public attention to the serious challenges facing Minnesota’s water and bring together citizens, water-quality experts, legislators, regulators and other stakeholders to propose meaningful solutions to address these challenges.

FMR, MEP and River Protectors strategize

Knowing a diverse group of attendees representing many interests would be present, FMR and our partners worked together to make sure our ideas to improve Minnesota's waters were heard loud and clear. The first step was ensuring that FMR River Protectors had a chance to sign up. As soon as the date was announced, the invitations were out — which was a very good thing as the summit reached capacity in just a couple days!

Next, we worked with our Minnesota Environmental Partnership collaborators to host a Water Summit Briefing. Over snacks and homebrew provided by FMR Water Program Director Trevor Russell, 30 volunteer advocates discussed our top priorities and talking points and enjoyed a great conversation with local water quality policy experts. In addition to these in-person efforts, FMR and our partners used social media to spread the word that any Minnesotan with online access could weigh-in via a portal set up by the governor's administration, both to offer and rank proposed clean water solutions. 

Results and next steps

The day of the summit, staff from FMR, our partner groups and the FMR River Protectors split up and successfully carried our core messages into many of the summit's breakout sessions. All suggested ideas were recorded and then shared via the online portal, where many of our top clean water priorties also received top votes, including: 

  • Fully funding the Forever Green Initiative at the University of Minnesota to develop innovative, economically viable cropping systems that also protect our land, air and water.
  • Advancing biofuels from perennial crops by establishing a state perennial cellulosic biofuel standard requiring at least 50% of the ethanol blended into Minnesota gasoline be derived from perennial or cover crops by 2026.
  • Establishing mandatory drain-tile permits for agricultural operations. Drainage authorities deserve to know when and where drain tile lines are patched into their systems, and downstream communities and drinking water suppliers deserve accountability from upstream polluters.

Without a doubt the Water Summit also generated a significant media buzz, helping to highlight the need to address today's biggest source of water pollution: agriculture (see "media" below).

Now FMR and our partners look forward to seeing how we can turn the summit's many innovative ideas into real, measureable changes. We'll continue to work with the governor's office to ensure that the best ideas move up from these basement conversations into noticeable improvements for Minnesotans' waters, communities and wildlife.

Join the FMR River Protectors 

Interested in joining the chorus of Minnesotans working to advance clean water policy? Let us know and we'll be in touch as related events and opportunities arise.


FMR staff were featured prominently in the media before and after the Water summit.

• Gov. Mark Dayton struggles to reconcile desire for clean water and a strong farm economy, by J. Patrick Coolican and Josephine Marcotty, Star Tribune 
• Can we save Minnesota’s water? These 800 are going to try, by Christopher Magan and Dave Orrick, Pioneer Press  
• Gov. Dayton rallies support for clean water at summit after facing a protest, by J. Patrick Coolican, Star Tribune
• Related: FMR's press statement