The State of the River Report illustrates that the Mississippi River has improved in both water quality and ecological health over time, but there is still a lot to be done in order to restore the river and reverse some disturbing trends.
Clean water is everyone’s responsibility, and we can all do our part to help protect this vital natural resource.
This guide highlights the “top 10” stewardship actions that you can take with your friends and neighbors to help protect and preserve the Mississippi River and its watershed for future generations.
After reading this guide, you can fill out the Stewardship Pledge, and commit to take action at home and in your community to protect and preserve Minnesota’s water resources.
In your Home/Apartment
Don’t Flush your Pills
Household wastewater ultimately discharges to surface waters throughout the state after treatment. If it goes down the drain, it goes in your water.
Expired or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications should never be disposed of down the drain. Wastewater treatment systems are not designed to remove these pollutants.
If your local drug store does not participate in a drug take-back program, contact your county solid waste office to see if they have a drug take back program in place.
If not, dissolve medicines in liquid, mix with fine materials (coffee grounds, cat litter) and place into a sturdy, sealable sandwich bag or plastic container before putting it in the garbage.
For more information on pharmaceuticals and the Mississippi River, see page 42 of the State of the River Report.
Use Triclosan-free Products
Triclosan is an antimicrobial product used in a variety of household products, including hand soap. Triclosan and its byproducts pose risks for aquatic life and health in the River. The use of antibacterial products provides no health benefits over plain soap and water, and should be avoided.
Check labels on soaps and personal care products and avoid those that contain triclosan. For more information on triclosan and the Mississippi River, see page 38 of the State of the River Report or visit FoodandWaterWatch.org. For more information about products that contain triclosan, visit EWG.org.
In your Yard and Garden
Maintain a Healthy Lawn
Healthy lawns help reduce runoff pollution. To maintain a water-friendly lawn, set your lawnmower on a high setting (3”) and leave grass clippings on the lawn. Aerate your lawn and avoid excess watering.
If you use lawn chemicals and fertilizers, use them wisely (never over-apply these products) and always keep them on the lawn — not on sidewalks, streets, and driveways.
Homeowners or property managers who hire lawn care providers should look for those who have completed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Summer Turf Care Best Practices certification.
And remember: if you only go to a corner of your lawn to mow it, odds are you can replace it with flowering plants or native vegetation that help improve water quality and habitat in your community.
Keep the Rain Drop where it Falls
Excess runoff contributes to higher flows and can carry pollutants into local rivers, lakes, and streams. Capture and filter runoff with rain gardens, rain barrels, and perennial vegetation before it reaches the street.
Make sure your downspouts are directed to gardens and other areas that can use the water — never onto your driveway, street, or sidewalk.
For more information on how flow impacts the Mississippi River, see page 10 of the State of the River Report.
For more information about how rain gardens and native plantings can help you improve water quality while providing a beautiful, year-round landscaping amenity, please visit BlueThumb.org.
Pick up after your Pet
Pet waste can wash into storm sewers and contribute to bacteria pollution in waters, including the Mississippi River. Clean pet waste from your yard and always pick up after your pet on walks.
For more information on bacteria and the Mississippi River, see page 14 of the State of the River Report.
Rake up, Sweep up, Pick up
Leaves, grass, lawn chemicals, trash, and winter salts can wash into storm sewers and pollute local rivers, lakes, and streams throughout Minnesota.
Remove these materials from your street, sidewalk, and driveway before they wash into the river.
Water-friendly Auto Care
Dirt, oil, and chemicals from your car can contribute to water pollution. Wash your car at a car wash, where runoff is collected and treated. If you wash your car at home, do it on the lawn, where the water can filter into the ground naturally.
Regular car maintenance and tune-ups help detect leaks, and prevent chemicals from washing into rivers, lakes, and streams.
And if you seal your driveway, always choose asphalt-based sealants. Coal-tar sealant alternatives contain higher levels of harmful chemicals like PAHs that pose a risk to our environment. For more information on PAHs and coal-tar sealants, see page 43 of the State of the River Report.
In your Community
Adopt your Storm Drain
Storm sewers discharge directly to rivers, lakes and streams untreated. If it goes down the storm drain, it goes in your water.
Take responsibility for keeping your block’s storm drain free of leaves and trash. By keeping your storm drain clean, you’re eliminating all that debris from entering and polluting the River!
Get Active in your Community
Serve on your watershed district board or park planning commission, join your lake association and work with your neighbors to keep your streets and storm drains clean
Participate in Community Clean-ups
Neighbors can eliminate tons of leaves, dirt, trash, and other debris from rivers, lakes, and streams when they work together to clean them up. Contact your local watershed organization to find out how.
For more information on your watershed, visit the Board of Soil and Water Resources.