Almost every year, reports come in of dogs dying after drinking from algae-infested waters, and people are cautioned not to swim in algae-filled lakes as it can sicken them.
While dangerous algae blooms are spurred by a complex array of ingredients — including wind speed, temperature and rainfall amounts — one thing that is well documented is that humans are allowing excess nutrients to flow into waterways.
Fertilizers spread on farm fields or lawns flow through farm drainage tiles or off the landscape. Grass mowed into streets or onto sidewalks can wash down storm drains and add more nutrients, and faulty septic systems can further fuel the problem.
Nutrients flowing into lakes and streams may be visually noticed because of the algae blooms, but the same process brings sediment, pesticides and other harmful chemicals into the water with no visual flags to warn us.
The algae blooms are a good reminder of the work that still needs to be done to protect the state’s valuable water resources. Gov. Mark Dayton and state agencies have made water protection a high priority, and pressure from the federal EPA further pushes the state to monitor water problems and to come up with solutions to improve things.
Those solutions can be costly and bring complaints by those who need to change practices on their property. But the added regulation and cost are necessary to address problems that have for too long been ignored.
This editorial was originally published in the Mankato Free Press. It was edited for length.