In my April 20th post, “Why did House Republicans take Clean Water Legacy money from rural MN communities that don’t have protection plans for their drinking water wells?” I sounded a hopeful note. Rep. Gunther said he wanted to restore Clean Water Legacy money that would be used to protect drinking water.
But that is not what happened.
The dollars for drinking water in the Legacy bill don’t come close to helping the communities that need money to protect their drinking water wells. Mainly these are outstate Minnesota communities that Republicans promised to help. There was no money to help protect the Mississippi, the drinking water source for over a million Minnesotans. In fact, protections for the Mississippi were weakened.
The Department of Health was given enough money to help 20 communities figure out how to protect their drinking water wells.
But there are 380 communities that don’t yet have source water protection plans. (170 vulnerable, 210 non-vulnerable). At the rate of providing funding for 20 per biennium, the number that is in the Legacy bill, community protection plans won’t get done until 2056.
Once a community figures it out what it needs to do to protect its drinking water then there is the challenge of actually protecting drinking water.
There are 960 community public drinking water systems in Minnesota: about 500 have source water protection plans. Those communities and the Department of Health have figured out that 407,000 acres surrounding community wells are highly vulnerable to contamination. But at this point, only 9,900 acres are protected by easements. 5,000 acres could be protect with new CREP money so that means 392,100 acres still need to be protected–and remember these are only the highly vulnerable acres in communities that currently have plans.
If you add up all the money provided for drinking water in the Legacy bill and Health doesn’t spend anything on other essentials, 1,100 additional acres could be protected in the next biennium.
At this rate it would take 708 years to protect the rest of the highly vulnerable acres in communities that currently have plans.
Minnesota is approaching spending a billion dollars of clean water money.
And this is where we are with drinking water. 708 years to go. And that isn’t counting protecting the Mississippi or dealing with thousands of private drinking water wells that have been contaminated through no fault of the owner.