Summer is in full swing and our lakes are busy. What is more paramount to Minnesota than summer time at the lake; swimming, fishing, boating, water skiing, paddle boarding, the list of fun goes on and on.
But many of our lakes are hurting.
Decades of use, and sometimes abuse, have led to water quality declines for many of these precious resources. Just last summer, one of the most popular and enjoyed lakes in our region, Upper Whitefish, had a major weed and algae bloom. For much of the summer, vast areas of the lake were unusable for recreation. In agricultural regions of our state we’ve unofficially given up on our lakes and rivers, with as much as 98% of the waterbodies in some watersheds failing to meet minimum water quality standards.
What is it that we appreciate about our lakes and how do we protect these values?
Over my years as a resource professional I’ve seen results from several surveys on what people value in the Lakes Region. Without exception, ninety percent or more of the people who respond to these surveys say they put a high value clean water. And that’s where I see the breakdown – the connection between clean water and the health of our soils.
Clean water starts with healthy soil.
Soil health is defined by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem”. Soil function is the ability of soil to cycle nutrients and water. Eighty five to ninety percent of nutrient cycling is through biology, so without living soil comes the inability of soil to function and to clean water. Impaired water has excess nutrients or temperature, a sign the soil within the watershed is not properly functioning.
To value soil is to value water.