City officials, farmers come together to talk about water quality

The main problem in these waters now is sediment and phosphorus.
Updated: Nov. 18, 2019 at 5:45 PM CST
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Like it or not, most of our southern Minnesota watersheds are impaired and polluted.

To gather input and ideas for how to begin reversing this, stakeholders gathered in Mankato Monday.

“We’re hoping that we can build partnerships across lines that previously didn’t necessarily always work together, agriculture and urban settings,” said Katrina Kessler, assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The main problem in these waters now is sediment and phosphorus.

If nothing is done about it, consequences could be severe.

“When you have too much phosphorus in the river or any lake or any downstream water resource, what happens is algae will grow and as that algae is consumed by bacteria the bacteria takes oxygen out of the water column and makes it unavailable for fish and bugs. This can cause a problem for aquatic life,” Kessler explained.

Right now, the area still needs a 50% reduction in sediment and a 25% to 40% reduction of phosphorus.

Many cities have made renovations to water treatment facilities to lower their phosphorus emissions.

Many farmers are turning over a new leaf as well.

“We’re very fortunate to have an Ag Water Quality Certification Program in Minnesota that we have over a half-million acres, 800 farmers enrolled in," Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said. "That is a new program that is really looking and rewarding farmers for doing some great practices on their farm.”

Petersen has been involved in Minnesota Ag Policy for 20 years, and he says farmers are putting emphasis on the right things and quickly adopting.

“There’s definitely something happening right now that we’re really positive that we see a real emphasis on soil health right now, especially in the Mankato area. We see a lot of farmers quickly adopting. Cover crops, no-till and reduce till are going to have a great impact on water quality.”

With bright ideas progressively moving along, hopefully, a couple more good ideas could come from Monday’s forum.

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