Winter 2013 Director's Corner

The annual “Great Minnesota Water Get-together”, also known as the Minnesota Water Resources Conference, was a great success. Held in downtown Saint Paul, we had more than 600 water researchers, professionals, practitioners, and students in attendance, and heard from a prominent aquatic ecologist, a former EPA Assistant Administrator of Water, a representative from the NRCS, and a private water sustainability consultant. There were more than a hundred individual presentations and posters, and we are pleased that our former WRC colleague, Barb Liukkonen, was honored as the 2012 recipient of the Dave Ford Water Resources Award.

This fall we also had a visit from one of the nation’s foremost agricultural economists, Professor Otto Doering of Purdue University. Dr. Doering gave a presentation on the Farm Bill (past, present, and future) on campus, and then was the guest of the Freshwater Society and the University for an evening presentation on the wicked problem of reactive nitrogen in the environment and what might be done to reduce it.

On a personal note, I finished up a four-year stint as Chair of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board. It was an important responsibility, a rare opportunity to learn about all aspects of the science and technology enterprise at EPA, and a great honor to work with dozens of prominent natural and social scientists, toxicologists, and public health scientists. I am very pleased that the EPA listened to much of our advice, and has made some significant changes in programs as a result.

The WRC co-sponsored a day-long symposium on the Red River of the North and beyond, entitled “Shared Waters|Shared Responsibility - Working Across Borders to Protect and Restore Lake Winnipeg and the Red River Basin.” This event, sponsored by the Consulate General of Canada with the Freshwater Society, the Province of Manitoba, the Minnesota International Center, and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, featured talks on the historical and cultural context, the science and policy issues in managing these shared waters, and a panel discussion of what can be done to address these issues more effectively. The featured luncheon speaker was the Premier of Manitoba, the Honorable Gregory Selinger. I provided synthesis comments at the end of the forum.

During the panel discussion, Lana Pollack, US Chair of the International Joint Commission, asked panelists for two things, in the spirit of the holiday season: what gift could their organization offer to each other, and what gift would they like from the other organizations of the Red River Basin? It changed the tenor of the discussion to one of collaboration and generosity rather than blame. I ask our readers to consider this same question – what can you do to help improve Minnesota’s waters in the coming year, and what would you like others to do, in kind?

As another year draws to a close, I wish you a healthy and peaceful New Year from all of us at the WRC.

With warm regards this holiday season,

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