Minnesota Campaigns

Cleaning Up Minnesota’s Corporate Agriculture

Agriculture has played an important role in Minnesota’s history and will undoubtedly be a critical part of Minnesota’s future – Minnesota is perennially in the top five states for food production in the country. Unfortunately, there are environmental problems associated with Minnesota’s role in providing food and fiber for the world.

The long term goal of Clean Water Action Minnesota’s Cleaning Up Corporate Agriculture Campaign is to create the political will and public demand to embrace and enact policy, market, and industry solutions that will significantly reduce industrial agriculture water pollution and help ensure clean lakes, rivers, and safe and affordable drinking water sources across the state.

Clean Water Action Minnesota will work for three major changes to the status quo:

  1. Change the Landscape: To transition to more native perennials, less row crops and fertilizers and pesticides
  2. Change the Market: To incentivize and create markets like the Forever Green Program and Working Lands Drinking Water Protection Program and clean up supply chains for meat in our stores.
  3. Change the Laws: To better protect our water and significantly reduce nutrient pollution in our water.

Putting Drinking Water First in Minnesota

Putting Drinking Water First: Clean Water Action believes that everyone has a right to safe and affordable drinking water. We are making drinking water impacts a primary consideration when developing regulations and other programs involving upstream activities that can impact downstream drinking water sources.

  • Water Infrastructure Investments: Dangerously outdated infrastructure remains a huge threat to our lakes, rivers, streams and drinking water quality. From combined sewer overflows to old lead service lines, our water infrastructure needs to be updated to protect water resources for future generations.
  • Tracking Contaminants of Emerging Concern:  People and industry use tens of thousands of chemicals. A vast array of these chemicals has been found in the environment, where we consider them contaminants of emerging concern or CECs. Most of these CECs have not been fully evaluated for the risks they might pose to the environment— or to our health.
  • Reducing Lead Exposure- Lead is a highly poisonous metal and can affect almost every organ in the body and the nervous system. The wide spread contamination of drinking water in Flint, MI, has also raised many concerns about lead in our drinking water and in public places such as schools. We are working to enact policies that will reduce our exposure to lead and make Minnesota Lead Free.
  • Reducing Salt in our Water: In winter, salt is applied to roads and walkways to melt ice and snow — this is where most of the chloride in our water comes from. The salt dissolves, runs into storm drains, and most storm drains go directly into local waterways.
  • Protecting Groundwater: Nearly 75% of Minnesotans get their drinking water from groundwater sources. To protect groundwater the legislature passed the Groundwater Protection Act in 1989.
Field to Fork

Field to Fork

As the home to the headwaters of the Mississippi river, a top state for food production in the country, and corporate agriculture players in our backyard, Minnesota is an important player in re-shaping the state of our current food system dominated by corporate agriculture. The industry has put the majority of beef, poultry, and pork markets in the hands of only a few top corporate processors, all of whom are involved in polluting practices throughout their supply chains.

The long term goal of Clean Water Action Minnesota’s Field to Fork: Sustainable Feed, Sustainable Food is to reshape this industrialized food system, in relation to livestock production, to implement policies that reflect sustainable practices in order to protect our natural resources including soil health, native landscapes, and clean water.  

Clean Water Action, in collaboration with partners and interested individuals across the state, will work towards two major changes to achieving sustainable meat:

  1. Change the Market: Engage consumers to influence change from the bottom up by creating demand for more sustainably produced meat
  2. Change Policy: Push for reform on three important environmental issues within meat’s supply chain – feed souring, manure management, and climate change

If you have any questions or would like to get more involved, please fill out our volunteer form!

MA_lead in water workshop_image-canva.jpg

Combatting the Lead Problem in Minnesota

Flint Michigan isn’t the only place with a drinking water crisis. All across the country, numerous communities face water insecurity due to outdated water infrastructure. There are an estimated 6-10 million lead service lines still in this country, which connect homes to drinking water mains in streets. As water flows through to houses, the lead is slowly eroded, resulting in lead contaminated drinking water. And this isn’t the only source of lead. Lead based paints, common in houses built before 1978, can result in dust and paint chips. If ingested, these can also result in lead poisoning. Leaded gasoline was common throughout the US in the 20th century, with the negative health impacts still being discovered. There are also still numerous areas with lead in the soil due to the decades of car exhaust with leaded gasoline. This can lead to lead poisoning from exposure to soil, particularly in areas near major highways and heavily trafficked streets. 

Lead exposure is particularly harmful to children and pregnant people. Exposure to lead can cause issues such as damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems. Read more about the health impacts of lead and what you can do to reduce lead at the tap (in English and Spanish) here.

The problem is particularly prominent in lower income households and BIPOC communities that can’t always afford the necessary remediation efforts. This is why the solutions must have an equity lens, and focus on the areas most heavily impacted by lead. 

Clean Water Action Minnesota is continuing to advocate for funding and programs to improve lead remediation efforts at all levels. This includes education, advocacy, and community powerbuilding. We are committed to fighting for lead abatement and removal until the problem has been completely eliminated. 

As an organization, we will always fight for everyone’s right to clean, affordable drinking water. We must ensure that Minnesota’s drinking water is safe, from the source to the tap. Learn more about our work to put drinking water first here.

Getting rid of lead sources in your home can be expensive. If you live in the seven county metro area, check out this fact sheet for local lead abatement resources. Some counties offer sizable financial assistance to ensure that you can make your home lead free as easily as possible. 

Saint Paul Regional Water is implementing a 10 year program to replace all lead service lines cost free. Learn more about the program and check to see if your house or apartment has a lead line with their service material map.

Currently, there are millions of federal dollars coming into states to replace lead service lines. This is the most significant investment in history to replace these lines, and we must take full advantage of this opportunity. Learn more about our efforts to ensure that the Minnesota Legislature fully and properly funds lead service line replacement. 

If you want to take more action, consider joining our group of volunteers! We work together to protect clean water and create a better environment for all.

If you have specific questions about our lead work, or want to more directly advocate on lead as an issue, please reach out to slewisnorelle@cleanwater.org.

Health Impacts of Lead


How Lead Gets Into Drinking Water

Minnesota State Capitol Building

Civic Engagement and Elections in Minnesota

Clean Water Action builds grassroots strength in Minnesota to impact environmental policy in Washington, D.C., in Saint Paul, and at home in our communities.

Baby washing hair

Safer Chemicals for Minnesota

Did you know the shampoo, cleaner, or laundry detergent you wash down the drain may be harming your health and the health of our water? Find out how these chemicals are making their way from our products into our bodies and water, discover simple steps you can take to protect your health from toxic chemicals, and see what we're doing to fight for safer chemicals.

historic map of the Great Lakes

Protecting and Restoring the Great Lakes

Protecting our Great Lakes: The Great Lakes are a national treasure.  They contain 20% of the earth’s fresh surface water and are the drinking water source for more than 40 million people. As a leading member of the Healing Our Waters coalition, we are working to protect the Great Lakes we love and clean them up for future generations to enjoy.

  • Strengthen the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: Since its passage in 2010, the GLRI has provided more than $2 billion to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward achieving long term goals.
  • Water Infrastructure Investments: Dangerously outdated infrastructure remains a huge threat to our lakes. From combined sewer overflows to old lead service lines, our water infrastructure needs to be updated to protect water resources for future generations.
  • Prevent Invasive Species: The Great Lakes have been severely damaged by more than 180 invasive and non-native plant and animal species. We are strategically focused on reducing the risk of introduction of new aquatic invasive species.
  • Agriculture affects on the Great Lakes Basin: One of the greatest threats to the quality and health of Great Lakes and its tributaries is excess chemicals, fertilizers, and sediment from irresponsible agricultural practices. This pollution fuels harmful algal outbreaks across the Great Lakes region, which is a significant threat to the region’s drinking water, quality of life, and economic well-being.
  • Great Lake Compact and Water Diversions: The Great Lakes Compact is one of the most significant public water policy achievements in the world. Clean Water Action was instrumental in helping to ratify the Compact in Minnesota, the Great Lakes region, and in Congress.  Unfortunately there aren’t enough formal public input opportunities in the decision-making process when it comes to large water diversions from the lakes. Everyone should have an opportunity to let decision makers know whether or not our water stays in the lakes.