Minnesota Fairytale

A frozen Brown’s Creek in the enchanted kingdom.

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there was an enchanted kingdom. Within this kingdom, the trees grew taller than castles, crystalline rivers flowed through the land, and there were more lakes than a person could count. Many beautiful princes and princesses lived in the kingdom, and they weren’t all tall and blonde like the royalty from other fairytales either (though, to be honest, due to their Scandinavian heritage, a fair number of them were). Some had black hair, some had brown, and a couple even had red hair. In any case, these beautiful princes and princesses lived happily together fishing and hunting for food, swimming merrily in the many lakes and rivers, and drinking water that burbled up out of the earth like magic.

Over time, however, the people began to notice that many of the lakes and rivers in the kingdom weren’t as healthy as they used to be. In some places, castles and yellow-brick roads had been built too close to the water’s edge, and when it rained, the rain washed dirt and grime off of rooftops and roadways and into the water. The rain washed nutrients from soil, leaves and grass clippings into the lakes as well, feeding algae in the water. By the summer’s end, many of the formerly beautiful lakes in the kingdom were green instead of blue, creating most un-picturesque backdrops for the grand ball the king and queen hosted each year.

Elsewhere in the kingdom, fishermen and women who cast lines into streams came home empty handed. Many of the once plentiful fish had lost their breeding grounds, been smothered by sediment, or died due to warm water, salt and pollution. In some places, even the water that sprang from the ground came up dirty; fertilizers from farm fields and chemicals from businesses had soaked down through the soil, contaminating the water that nourished the people of the land.

One day (2008, to be exact), the king and queen called all of the people of the kingdom together and asked them what could be done to return the lakes and rivers of the land to their former splendor.  After much debate, the princes and princesses voted to pool their money together to pay a team of fairies to fix the water. Calling their decision the “Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment,” the people determined that for 25 years, they would set aside a small portion of their sales taxes to pay for clean water, habitat, parks and trails, and arts within the kingdom.

After this decree, the team of fairies set to work. They collected water samples to determine which of the countless lakes in the kingdom were still healthy and which needed help. They planted magical prairies, trees and gardens around the rivers and lakes to purify the rainwater flowing off of the land, and they taught the princes and princesses how to take better care of their water. A few years later, many of the lakes in the kingdom were clearer than they had been, the fish had lower levels of mercury, and the water coming out of the castles’ wastewater treatment plants had much less phosphorus.

Try as they might, however, the fairies couldn’t fix all of the problems.  Though their magic was strong, they still needed help from the princes and princesses to clean up the water. So, the fairies gathered the people of the kingdom together again and they told them, “Each one of you has something you can do. You may not realize it, but you all have magic too. Some of you can help to plant the magic gardens and trees, some of you can put less fertilizer and salt on the ground, and some of you can teach others how to protect our water. We will only succeed if we all do our part.”

What happened then? It was a fairytale ending of course. All the princes and princesses used their magic powers and the fairies waved their wands faster than ever. A cloud of glitter rose up into the air and when it finally settled, it covered the kingdom in pure white snow. Beneath the snow, the lakes and rivers were clean again, and the people of that enchanted land lived happily ever after.

To learn more about progress on the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, visit www.legacy.leg.mn/. Find a summary of Clean Water Funds invested, actions taken, and outcomes achieved at www.legacy.leg.mn/sites/default/files/resources/2014_CleanWaterFund_ReportCard.pdf.