1 million acres now in MAWQCP; Water Conservation Pays Off: Clean Water Council Update

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Minnesota Clean Water Council

Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program Celebrates One Million Acres

Gov. Walz visits Heins Farm

NOTE: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has sent a letter to Minnesota state agencies about nitrate in private wells in southeastern Minnesota this week. We will cover this in the next issue.  

On Friday, November 3rd, Governor Tim Walz celebrated that Minnesota farmers and landowners have enrolled one million acres in a voluntary agricultural water quality program, achieving a goal Governor Walz set in December 2020. The Governor made the announcement at the farm of Eric Heins of Altura. Heins represents one of the 1,400 farmers who’ve become certified since the program began in 2014.

“This program ensures our lakes, rivers, and drinking water are protected for future generations,” said Governor Walz. “Farmers understand the need for this better than anyone – their bottom line depends on conservation and a stable climate. Our farmers are stewards of our natural resources, and they’re stepping up in a big way to implement sustainable practices that will protect the water, land, and community around them.”

“I can't think of an area in Minnesota where water quality could be more important than right here on the bluffs above the Mississippi River,” said Eric Heins. “When farming in an area where any excess water runs directly to a stream or river, we have to be sure that the water is as clean as possible if it leaves our farm. The Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program helps us do that.”

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a voluntary program for farmers and landowners that protects the state’s water resources, and it is 100% funded by the Minnesota Clean Water Fund. To date, Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality certified farms have added over 2,700 new conservation practices that protect Minnesota’s waters. Those new practices have kept nearly 48,000 tons of sediment out of Minnesota rivers while saving 141,000 tons of soil and 59,000 pounds of phosphorous on farms each year. The conservation practices have also reduced nitrogen loss up to 49% and cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50,000 tons per year.

 “We’re excited to hit this million-acre milestone and recognize all the farmers and landowners that have stepped up to become part of the Ag Water Quality Certification Program,” said Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. “This is a unique program that allows farmers to highlight their conservation work, get access to funding assistance, and ensure they are compliant with the latest regulations. I encourage farmers and landowners to look into the advantages of certifying their land.”

News coverage includes WXOW TV in La Crosse, KAAL-TV in Rochester, KTTC-TV in Rochester, WJON radio in St. Cloud, and Brownfield Ag News

Upcoming Meetings & Project Updates

Minnesota Clean Water Council

Upcoming Meetings

Full Council: The next meeting is Monday, November 20th (Topics: strategic planning; petition to EPA on nitrates in private wells). The packet from the October 16th meeting (topics: strategic planning) has been posted at our web site.

Policy Committee: The next meeting is Friday, November 17th. (Topic: Updated drainage policy statement.) The packet from the October 27th meeting (topics: drainage, University of MN report on 50-year water plan) has been posted at our web site.

Budget & Outcomes Committee: The next meeting is Friday, December 1st (topic: TBD). The packet from the November 3rd meeting has been posted.


Updates on Projects Supported by the Clean Water Fund

If you would like a project to be featured here, please make sure your publicity materials, reports online, or web pages use the phrase "Clean Water Fund" so that is shows up in our daily media scans.

News release: BWSR Accepting Applications for Multipurpose Drainage Management Grants: Local governments can apply for multipurpose drainage management grants following the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) Board approving up to $2 million for these efforts at its October meeting. Up to $1 million is available in 2024, with up to an additional $1 million available in 2025.

Sunrise River wetland enhancement promises cleaner water downstream – East Metro Water: This project in the Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District "diverts water from an existing drainage ditch system into a restored wetland, where it now flows through multiple pools and is naturally filtered before reaching the Sunrise River. In addition to reducing downstream flooding, the wetland enhancement project will also keep 89 pounds per year of phosphorus and 51,000 pounds per year of sediment out of the Sunrise River [and then the St. Croix River]."

Chippewa River WASCOBs (YouTube): Farmers along the Chippewa River in Pope County worked with their SWCD to install water and sediment control basins (WASCOBs) that reduce peak flows and sediment.

November 2023 Snapshots: Duluth stormwater improvements, Lawns to Legumes update, EPA-BWSR study: The latest monthly BWSR Snapshots are out, including stories on the Clean Water Fund helping to improve stormwater quality in Lincoln Park in Duluth.

MAWQCP Insider: The latest newsletter for the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is out. Currently 1,406 producers and 1,013,075 acres are enrolled in the program.

We Are Water MN is up and running at Stillwater Public Library! Come visit the exhibit between October 12 and December 3, and be sure to attend related online or in-person events.

We Are Water MN Exhibit Sites for 2024: We Are Water MN announces its 2024 host sites! 

  • Hartley Nature Center (Duluth): February 29th through April 22nd, 2024
  • Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District with Art in Motion (Holdingford): April 25th through June 17th, 2024
  • Chisago County: June 20th through August 12th, 2024
  • Leech Lake Tribal College (Cass Lake): August 15th through October 7th, 2024
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community at Hoċokata Ti (Shakopee): October 10th through December 2nd, 2024

Are you interested in hosting We Are Water MN? Applications for 2025 will be open in June of 2024. Send a note to Britt.Gangeness@state.mn.us if you want to learn more about this opportunity.

Other Relevant Water News

News release: BWSR awarded $25M in NRCS RCPP funds to prioritize soil healthThe Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) will receive $25 million in Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to support soil health initiatives across Minnesota. The Advancing Soil Health in Minnesota Agriculture project will offer financial incentives to producers for implementing soil health best management practices and systems such as no-till, strip-till, rotational grazing and cover crops.

In remarkable turnaround, Minnesota cities consume much less water than decades ago (startribune.com): The Star Tribune looks at declining water consumption in Minnesota, especially in the Twin Cities, over many decades.

Increasing Diversity in Environmental (IDEC) Program - YouTubeWe catch up with 2 IDEC interns at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as they explain their individual experiences after going through the IDEC program with the state of Minnesota. Hear from staff on who the program is for, how it has been successful and why you may want to apply! More info on the program can be found at Increasing Diversity in Environmental Careers | Minnesota DNR.

Millions of rural Americans rely on private wells. Few regularly test their water. (startribune.com/New York Times): The New York Times series on groundwater continues.

BWSR Receiving $25,000,000 in Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced awards from its RCPP program. The Advancing Soil Health in Minnesota Agriculture project will provide financial assistance to producers for on-the-ground soil health management practices and systems. Through this project the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources will focus on near-channel erosion, which is the largest source of sediment to the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, and upland erosion on tilled fields, which is the second largest source of sediment. 

Webinar--Water Efficiency for Minnesota Businesses: On December 5th at 1 p.m., a webinar will feature examples and case studies of water efficiency practices implemented at Minnesota businesses that significantly reduced water use and costs at these sites. Practices covered will include: Replacing nozzles; improved cleaning practices; cooling tower optimization; single pass cooling elimination; and general domestic water use improvements. Sponsored by Minnesota Rural Water Association, Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, and Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP).

Southeast Minnesota struggles for common ground on nitrate pollution as health worries rise | MPR News: Coverage continues on nitrate in drinking water wells in southeastern Minnesota. 

New nation-leading measures protect Minnesotans from forever chemicals | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: The MPCA covers the pending legislative prohibition on using PFAS in consumer products, additional PFAS monitoring and response funding, water quality standards, etc.