HomeNewsIonE staff and affiliates contribute to Minnesota’s 2020 Water Plan

IonE staff and affiliates contribute to Minnesota’s 2020 Water Plan

This fall, Minnesota’s Environmental Quality Board (EQB) released its 2020 State Water Plan, a comprehensive, long-term strategy for managing and preserving Minnesota’s water resources by establishing a framework that aligns state and local agencies, and legislative priorities, programs, and actions. Data collected by IonE staff and affiliates on future changes in water quality and quantity, as well as Minnesotan values and attitudes about water resources, contributed to the plan. 

To help inform the plan, two IonE staff – Barrett Colombo, IonE manager for education and policy initiatives, and Kate Brauman, an IonE lead scientist (who is currently pursuing an AAAS Science Technology Policy Fellowship) – started by compiling a list of water-related research conducted across all campuses and drew connections for the EQB. From the start, this inventory was guided by input from other University partners, especially the Water Resources Center.

Some of those collaborations were already well underway. Bonnie Keeler, an assistant professor at Humphrey School of Public Affairs and an IonE affiliate, and a variety of collaborators had been working to inform the plan’s water management practices, says Colombo.

Keeler was coordinating with Tracy Twine, an associate professor in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate (CFANS) and also an IonE affiliate, whose cutting-edge climate modeling was featured in the plan. Ryan Noe, a scientist in Keeler’s lab worked closely with Twine and her team to visualize and interpret the climate projections. Noe also worked closely with EQB staff to describe and interpret the scientific data. Critical for forward-looking water planning, Twine’s models project shifts in annual precipitation that could lead to flash flooding, crop stress, and erosion. The findings also showed shorter winters and more extreme hot days, potentially affecting fish species composition.

A survey developed by Keeler and Mae Davenport, director for the Center for Changing Landscapes and a professor in the Department of Forest Resources at UMN-TC, provided another type of useful data to the plan, says Colombo: measurements of how citizen stakeholders value water. IonE Impact Goals funding supported some of the research, which found that 94% of Minnesotans value clean and safe drinking water and 80% value clean water for future generations. These findings strengthen the case for developing rigorous and protective water policies. 

The success of any water plan is shaped by collaborations with stakeholders and aligning values between the legislature, research, and citizens. However, a water plan that considers future regional changes in water abundance and quality – and combines them with citizen input – is cutting edge, says Colombo. He describes the contributions of IonE staff and affiliates made to state water planning as significant. To effectively prepare for the impacts of climate change, he says, it’s important that agencies like the EQB align all of their governance capabilities – and connect with all stakeholders. 

Abby Hornberger is a senior studying Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and an IonE Communications Assistant.

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