Feature Stories

Just south of Duluth Minnesota, the St. Louis River Estuary forms a 12,000 acre network of critical habitat for North American wildlife, water and migratory birds, and native plants and fish. Located at the confluence of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior, the estuary also plays a key role in Minnesota’s wild rice trade, commercial fishing industry, and cultural and recreational heritage.  

The opening plenary speaker at the 2016 Minnesota Water Resources Conference was Chris Kolb, President of the Michigan Environmental Council and co-chair of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force, who spoke about the drinking water crisis in Flint Michigan.  Kolb was part of the five member task force charged by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder with finding out how and why Flint’s drinking water was fouled. The committee’s investigation found that safe drinking water mechanics can be overlooked by environmental regulators because the science of making water fit for human consumption is well-understood by the water community and regulators. This is what happened in Flint, and it changed everything in regard to monitoring the safety of drinking water. Now, the focus will be on the water source, and followed all the way to the tap.

This fall WRS student Taylor Nelson will be investigating MDOT rest stops, studying the efficiency of the rest stop septic systems. This is not how Nelson, as a Biology/pre-med freshman at Luther College in Decorah Iowa, would have envisaged her post-graduate work.  

The Minnesota Water Resources Conference will convene again on the banks of the Mississippi in St. Paul, October 18-19, 2016. The Water Resources Center hosts the annual conference which presents innovative water resource engineering solutions, management techniques, and current research.  This year’s conference plenary speakers will address nonpoint source water pollution, atmospheric and coastal research with NOAA, and policy lessons learned from the Flint water crisis. 

The Water Resources Center awarded funding to three research projects for 2015. The funded research projects include improving the mechanics in drinking water filtration systems, the effect of invasive mussels on the marine environment, and finding a safe balance between the economic boon of mining operations and sulfite damage to wild rice habitat.

With over 30 percent of new neighborhoods installing decentralized wastewater systems, the creation of a simplified, individualized web-based operation manual for individual homeowners or those living within a community septic system only made sense. 

When it comes to environmental issues, most people probably consider scientists to be the thought leaders and change agents. But it is often the world’s great communicators—journalists, essayists, and philosophers, novelists and poets—who succeed in moving society toward shifts in attitude and action that positively impact the environment. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, Aldo Leopold, and Rachel Carson are among those whose writings have raised awareness about the environmental and conservation challenges that have faced us for decades. 

Through wastewater education and research projects, onsite specialist Sara Heger is making a difference for the environment in her home state of Minnesota and across the country.

Aided by a Water Resources Center grant, University of Minnesota Soil, Water and Climate assistant professor Brandy Toner and professor Ed Nater have been sampling glacial aquifers in west central and south central Minnesota in an effort to map the stratigraphic and mineralogical sources of arsenic in groundwater.

This summer, researchers from the University’s Biotechnology Institute were awarded a $600,000 federal grant to develop technology to treat flowback water. Led by College of Biological Sciences professor Lawrence Wackett, the team includes Alptekin Aksan, professor in the College of Science and Engineering, and Michael Sadowsky, a Water Resources Sciences graduate program professor in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences.

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