Living Green 365: Drinking water

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Protect our drinking water

Clean and safe drinking water is an important part of a healthy environment and protecting public health. Most Minnesotans depend on groundwater as their primary source for drinking water — whether it be a public water supply or a private well.

Minnesotans enjoy some of the best drinking water in the country. Safe drinking water is no accident. To keep it that way, this resource must be protected. Drinking water quality depends on many people including you! You may be polluting our water—without even knowing it.

Conservation, as well, is essential for maintaining adequate supplies of clean drinking water, and it goes hand-in-hand with pollution prevention. Only 1% of the earth’s surface water is drinkable. Water is a precious resource that we should not waste! Take action to keep our water clean.

Take action

Inside your home 


Don’t flush leftover medicines down the toilet. For years, it was recommended you dispose of unwanted medications by flushing them down the drain. Medicines flushed down the drain can contaminate water, harming aquatic wildlife and ending up in our drinking water. Look for safe ways to dispose of them by contacting your city or county to see what options are available in your community.

Save water by fixing leaky faucets and toilets, running only full loads of laundry or dishes and taking shorter showers. You can also use water-efficient fixtures such as low-flow showerheads and toilets. Look for the WaterSense® label when shopping for plumbing devices. The EPA’s WaterSense® program promotes the value of water to consumers.

Use soaps, lotions, and detergents that are biodegradable and less toxic. Products you use in the house eventually make it out into the environment. The most common route is through municipal wastewater. At times, wastewater treatment removes most of a chemical but not in entirety, which means it ends up in our lakes, rivers and water sources. 

In your yard


Landscape to reduce the need for watering and prevent runoff. Make a rain garden or install a rain barrelReducing runoff is critical to minimizing the impact our yards and gardens have on the surrounding lakes and streams. When it rains, water can’t soak into impervious surfaces like rooftops, driveways, and roads. Instead, it runs off into streets and storm sewers. From our streets to our streams, stormwater picks up nutrients, dirt, salt, fertilizers, pesticides, oil, bacteria, and garbage.

Minimize your use of fertilizers and pesticides. When fertilizers, which include nitrate, are overused or sprayed on impermeable surfaces such as driveways or sidewalks, they take on a new role. Instead of plants using them, these products end up running off into storm drains during rainfall and become stormwater pollution. Reduce the amount of fertilizer you apply by soil testing your yard first to determine its need—you may need less than you think!

Clean up after your pets. Dog owners, take note. When you clean up after your pet, do you dump their waste in the street of storm sewer? Or worse, do you neglect to clean up at all? Melting snow or rain washes improperly disposed pet waste into storm sewers—which typically drain directly in our lakes and streams. In many places, those waterways are the source of public drinking water. 

Have unused, unsealed wells sealed and filled with an impervious material by a licensed well contractor. Wells removed from service must be sealed to protect both public health and our invaluable groundwater resources. You may contact a licensed well contractor to evaluate, repair, or seal an existing well or construct a new well. 

Find out more

Did you know six state/regional agencies are involved with Minnesota’s water? With so many players, finding available information is a problem. To make it easier for people to find what information is available, a Key Water Information (KWI) Catalogue webpage of links has been set up. The goal in making the KWI Catalogue was to keep the list of agency water links small, understandable, and useful.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) provides an online application, What’s in My Neighborhood, for you to access a variety of environmental information about your community including water contamination.

You can also contact Minnesota Department of Health Drinking Water Protection Program by email or at 651-201-4700. 

Community events and resources


The MPCA is accepting applications until June 6, 2014 from individuals interested in service with Minnesota GreenCorps during the 2014-2015 program year. Organizations that would like to host a GreenCorps member have until May 5 to turn in applications. Minnesota GreenCorps is an environmentally focused AmeriCorps program which places members with organizations around the state to spend a year of service addressing critical environmental issues, while gaining experience and learning valuable job skills.

Earth Hour is an annual event that invites each of us to turn off the lights for one hour in a “massive show of concern for the environment.” The City of St. Paul participates by turning off non-essential lights on all public buildings. Join in on March 29, 8:30-9:30 p.m.

Attend The State of Water Conference on May 1 and 2 to learn about and discuss the issues facing Minnesota’s waters.  Organizations and state agencies who protect our water including the DNR, MPCA, University of Minnesota Extension, and Freshwater Society will lead workshops and break-out sessions on a variety of water topics. The conference will also feature speakers, including MPCA commissioner John Linc Stine.

Attention youth in grades 4-12! The Will Steger Foundation and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are sponsoring the Youth Voices of Change: Climate Change Video Competition. To participate, just create a video that shows how you are engaging in solutions to climate change in your home, school or community. Videos are due by May 16, 2014. Ten finalist videos will be chosen and the competition winners will be announced the evening of August 22, 2014 on the Sustainability Stage at the Eco Experience at the State Fair.

Interested in educating others on how to live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle? If so, consider presenting at the 2014 Sustainability Stage in the Eco Experience building at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair.  Demonstrations and performances on a variety of topics including yard and garden, energy, water, food and creative ventures. To apply, read the detailed instructions on the online application form then fill out the application and submit it electronically. Applications due April 11, 2014.

Send questions or comments about living green to the address below.




Taylor Holland and the Living Green Team