Feature Stories

The 2017 Minnesota Water Resources Conference returns to the St. Paul RiverCentre October 17-18. The Water Resources Center hosts the annual conference which presents innovative water resource engineering solutions, management techniques, and current research. Plenary topics include the role of media in raising public awareness of water issues, water quality in agriculture, protecting public health in recreational waters and tribal water concerns. There will be a poster session on the first day of the conference and industry vendors will staff exhibits throughout both days.

Blue-green algae, cyanobacteria, harmful algal blooms - the terminology can get confusing. What is a concerned citizen to do?  

During Governor Mark Dayton’s Year of Water Action, the Water Resources Center convened a series of Water Science and Policy Salons to identify policy strategies that will provide significant movement towards meeting the goals put forth in the Minnesota Nutrient Reduction Strategy. 

Faye Sleeper decided early on that being a woman was not going to limit her life choices. Her father taught her to change tires and motor oil and she was her own bike mechanic. Her parents’ life and work ethic of fairness and kindness to all, cautious optimism and unwavering stewardship for the earth, had a profound effect on their daughter who carried those lessons into her life and work. “My parents modeled a conservation ethic long before it was trendy,” she says. Both Faye’s parents had advanced education and valued a college education for their daughter. 

Mark Seeley, climatologist with the UMN Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, handed out Climate Adaption awards at the May 2017 National Adaptation Forum in St. Paul. Seeley began the award portion of the program by presenting an award to recently retired WRC Associate Director Faye Sleeper

The Universities Council on Water Resources (UCOWR) has awarded Deborah Swackhamer (former WRC co-director) the Warren A. Hall Medal in honor of her lifetime achievements in water resources research and education.  

There are two current projects working simultaneously to advance the needs for additional research in stormwater management, practices, and policies for Minnesota.
The Stormwater Research Roadmap project is articulating and prioritizing research needs that can propel stormwater management and practice implementation forward to reduce and prevent pollution from urban stormwater runoff.

The USGS-funded NIWR 2017 grant competition yielded three project awardees, announced earlier this year.  Funding is available to researchers (pending Congressional budget action later this year) through WRC’s selection process, which chooses from submitted competent applied and peer reviewed research submissions each November. This year’s grants highlight methods to mitigate nitrogen and phosphorus from drain tile, open source monitoring of turbidity in surface water and testing the efficacy of buffer strips in deterring the export of organic matter and the resulting algal blooms.

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.