While water is life, we too often take it for granted.

Minnesota has always been blessed with an abundance of water, above ground and below. But we have learned that polluting our lakes and rivers and wells can harm us and wildlife.

This summer we’re being reminded that it’s not just water quality but adequate supplies of water we can’t take for granted.

The long, serious drought is making recreation on lakes and rivers more difficult. But more importantly it’s straining our water supplies.

The Department of Natural Resources has told cities to develop water conservation plans and Mankato, North Mankato and other area communities have set goals for reduced water use. They have encouraged residents to take steps to help, but often the reduced water use goals have not been met.

Both cities have asked residents to only water lawns and gardens on specified days and to take other steps to cut their water use.

It’s clear we haven’t done enough.

For most people, sprinkling lawns is their major source of water use. We all must continue to adjust our concept of a perfect lawn. Lawns can turn brown without causing permanent damage to them. Lawns should be left a little long and shaggy, not mowed low where they require more watering to stay green.

The growing momentum for more native plants and pollinator plants fits perfectly with lower water usage moving forward. Deep-rooted native plants find enough water in the worst of droughts and they benefit pollinators and other insects and birds.

There are a variety other easy steps residents can take to cut water use now and in the future, steps that aren’t any sacrifice and save money:

Clean and peel vegetables in a bowl of water, not under running water. Only run the dishwasher when it’s full. Run full loads of laundry.

Only use the garbage disposal when necessary. Take short showers rather than baths. Fix running toilets (add 12 drops of food coloring into the tank, and if color appears in the bowl one hour later, your toilet is leaking). Turn off the water to brush your teeth.

It is difficult for businesses that need to use large amounts of water to simply cut back without harming their business and employees. But companies have to continue looking for more ways to reduce and reuse water wherever possible.

This current drought will end, but it could be a multi-year event. Reducing water use helps our community and saves us money.

Even when this drought passes, the changing climate makes it more likely we will see more frequent and severe droughts ahead. Taking incremental, ongoing steps to cut water use at homes and at businesses is something we all have a vested interest in.

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