Led by the Izaak Walton League’s Minnesota Division – working with Ikes in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin – the Upper Mississippi River Initiative (UMRI) is a collaborative, grassroots effort to foster community engagement around water quality issues.
Last year, Ikes enlisted the help of 40 citizen scientists to monitor water quality in the Cedar River in Minnesota. From the samples collected, limited DNA testing revealed at least three sources of fecal contamination – swine, cattle, and humans – that can be directly attributed to poor land use practices and failing septic systems. These findings are opening doors to work on practical solutions, such as counties providing resources to help homeowners upgrade out-of-date septic systems. You can read more in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Organizers are building relationships with a diverse set of partners. According to UMRI co-chair (and long-time Ike) Dave Zentner: “We believe that agriculture can be successful while simultaneously protecting our water quality – that agriculture and conservation are not mutually exclusive. Urban and small-town residents have their own important roles to play, as do businesses and industries. Together, we can ensure our waters are fishable and swimmable, our soils are healthy, and our agricultural communities are prospering.”