Scientists from The Nature Conservancy have studied what’s happening in the headwaters area at length and have come back with some good news: it’s not too late to fix this!
Protect High-Priority Lands
Protecting land is an important strategy for safeguarding clean water in the Mississippi River’s headwaters area. The areas highlighted on this map are some of our most high-quality natural landscapes, in terms of both water quality and habitat for fish and wildlife. The largely natural landscapes in this area provide important services including water filtration, groundwater recharge and habitat for hundreds of native species.
Restore Lands That Offer the Most Protection Benefit
We can also achieve myriad benefits for Minnesota by restoring key lands in the headwaters area. These areas represent high-priority restoration areas that would provide benefits including drinking water filtration, carbon sequestration and better air quality, among others. In these areas, we’re aiming to increase capacity for partners and local agencies to do restoration at a scale that will have a meaningful impact on our water quality.
Improve Ag Practices in Key Areas
While forests and wetlands make up much of the headwaters region, so too do agricultural lands including corn, soybean and potato farms. In these areas, we’re recommending adoption of sustainable, water-friendly practices like cover crops, reduced tillage and the implementation of 4R and other soil health practices. This map shows where we can make the most impact for water by adopting some of these sustainable farming practices.
Improve Stormwater Management
This map shows priority watersheds for improved stormwater management. Because impervious surfaces like roads, sidewalks and parking lots do not provide the filtration benefits we get from natural lands, our strategy also needs to consider stormwater from urban and suburban areas. In these areas lies an opportunity to increase the capacity of conservation partners and local governments to better manage stormwater and urban runoff.
What Will It Take?
$500 Million in Public Investment
10 Years If We Get Started Now
We Can’t Afford Business As Usual
A Small Investment with a Big Payoff
Targeted Protection and Restoration
Of the 13 million acres in the Mississippi River’s headwaters area, we’re recommending protection and restoration for less than two percent of them. Doing so would yield enormous benefits for water protection while having a minimal impact on agriculture and industry. We are targeting areas to protect and restore that will have the greatest impact for water quality, water quantity, fish and wildlife habitat and flood control.
$490 Million Worth of Benefits
Not only is this investment significantly smaller than delaying action and paying for it later, there is much to be gained by being proactive. Improvements to to public health, retained property values, carbon sequestration and avoided flood damages add up to $490-500 million in direct and indirect benefits. All in all, this is an investment that pays for itself and protects Minnesotans’ quality of life.