With an estimated 40 percent of Minnesota's lakes and rivers considered impaired or polluted, the governor's office is asking people to commit to change.
Gov. Mark Dayton Tuesday introduced what the office is calling a "Year of Water Action pledge" – they're asking residents to carefully consider how they use water, and how they should change their behavior to keep the state's unique quality in good shape.
The pledge is sort of vague, but asks people to "rethink" how water impacts not just their life, but future generations, use water efficiently every day, learn about how to preserve clean water, consider water quality when buying products, and spread the word by talking about it with others.
There's another page with suggestions for people, which gets more specific. For example, kids can carry a reusable water bottle or build a rain garden at school; and outdoorsy people can volunteer to monitor waters, or make sure to check their watercraft consistently.
"The future of clean water in Minnesota is dependent on the action we all take now," Dayton said in a news release. "That is why I am asking all Minnesotans to join me, in pledging to protect and preserve clean water throughout our state."
Just how much is polluted?
Concerns about Minnesota's waters go back almost a couple years now, including a study from spring of 2015 that found there were zero lakes in southwestern Minnesota that were clean enough for swimming.
Much of the blame was given to sediment, nitrates and bacteria, including runoff from farms in the area.
Prescription drugs, the insect repellent DEET, medical drugs and more were found in waters in a study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency shortly after.
Findings and efforts in 2016
This year the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency updated its impaired waters list – there are now more than 4,600 lakes, rivers and streams across the state that are considered “impaired,” meaning they fail to meet at least one water quality standard. That's more than 40 percent of the waters.
It's hoped the addition of buffer strips to 90,000 miles of shoreline – something Dayton pushed for from lawmakers for months – will be one step to addressing the pollution issue.
Dayton held a first ever Governor's Water Summit in February, laying out how important he considers the issue.
And the week before the State Fair started, Dayton kicked off what he called a "Year of Water Action." The governor has monthly efforts around the state planned to raise even more awareness of the issue.