Dayton sets 'aggressive' target of improving state water quality by 25 percent

Dayton describes his water quality target as "ambitious, but achievable."

Gov. Mark Dayton has set out an "aggressive" plan to improve the quality of Minnesota's waters by 25 percent over the next eight years.

Dayton has made improving water quality a key feature of his final term in office and revealed his latest proposal, that he himself describes as "ambitious," on Friday morning.

Although he has proposed or passed several laws in the last couple years aimed at improving water quality, the governor says his "25 by 25" program will not involve introducing new regulations, but "engage local governments, businesses, farmers, scientists and others" to work together to restore waters.

Dayton says without additional action, the improvements already ongoing in Minnesota will only increase water quality by 6-8 percent by 2034.

Having previously been criticized for implementing one-size-fits-all solutions to reducing water pollution, namely through the "buffer law" affecting farmers, Gov. Dayton says the "25 by 25" program would be more flexible, with each of Minnesota's eight watershed regions able to decide which pollutions to address and what strategies to employ.

Around 40 percent of the lakes, rivers, groundwater and streams in Minnesota are considered impaired or polluted, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

“Without an ambitious, achievable goal, the quality of our water will continue to deteriorate," Dayton said. "Minnesotans must set this goal now, and then work together to achieve it. I ask all Minnesotans to join me in finding solutions that will ensure our children and grandchildren inherit clean water to drink, swim, and fish in. This is everyone’s challenge, and everyone’s responsibility."

The "25 by 25" plan would require legislative approval.

Dayton's other plans for clean water

The "25 by 25" plan would work alongside policies already put forward or approved in Minnesota, such as the $214 million Gov. Dayton proposed in last week's budget proposal that would help local governments protect groundwater sources and reduce nutrient pollution.

Last month, the governor signed an agreement to provide $350 million federal funding to state farmers to help them protect and improve waters in 60,000 acres of land in 54 Minnesota counties, which will require the state to contribute $150 million (about a third has already been pledged).

It also follows the buffer law introduced in 2015, which means farmers with land next to public waters must install 50 foot strips of vegetation to filter out chemicals before they reach the water.

You can read more about the governor's plans for improving water quality here.

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