In the course of conducting research for a book about the Minnesota River, we canoed every single mile of it, from the headwaters at the South Dakota border to the mouth of the river at Fort Snelling. And we drove countless miles to investigate more than three dozen lakes in the basin.

We saw firsthand the eroding banks of the river and the deleterious effects of excessive nutrients in the water. The Minnesota River is in trouble!

By plowing up virtually all of the original prairie, draining and filling the vast majority of wetlands, installing drain tile in farmland and storm sewers in urban areas, we have altered the way water flows across cities and farms. More water moving faster means the river channels are becoming wider, collapsing bluffs and eroding ravines.

But there is hope. Decades of scientific study have led to agreement on the first steps necessary to clean up our rivers and lakes. The top priority, and one that is within our grasp, is to begin the long process of restoring water-storage capacity on the land: to make the water walk, not run, across the landscape to our lakes and rivers.

In this year’s session of the Minnesota Legislature, there is a bipartisan bill called Minnesota River Basin Water Storage is all set and ready to be enacted. It is in both the House and Senate Omnibus Environment and Natural Resources bills, but, for the second year in a row, it is in jeopardy of failing to pass, a victim of the counterproductive wrangling between Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

We ask Legislative leaders to work together and enact the Water Storage bill. Don’t let this well-founded proposal wait any longer — our cherished rivers, and future generations, will pay the price if we fail to act now.

Darby and Geri Nelson


Darby Nelson, PhD, is professor emeritus at Anoka-Ramsey Community College and the author of For Love of a River: The Minnesota (Beaver’s Pond Press, 2019). Geri Nelson is a retired high school science teacher.