Minnesota, known as the land of 10,000 lakes, is really the land of over 12,000 lakes, an inland sea, 10.6 million acres of wetlands, the headwaters of the Mississippi, 69,200 miles of natural rivers and streams, and drinkable groundwater. As people build cabins, homes, towns, and cities, the quality of the water often reflects their land use decisions and choices that were made in the past. (The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency estimates that about 40% of all lakes and rivers in the state are biologically "impaired.") Similarly, water can reflect global history and current practices that might alter species compositions and impact lakes, streams, and groundwater. Global warming, atmospheric mercury pollution and acid rain are examples of global impacts.
Citizens can play an important role in understanding how water quality is changing Minnesota's lakes and streams through involvement in volunteer monitoring programs and by staying informed. Water quality measures and information are available online to the public, to resource managers, and as curricula for teachers and students. Municipal officials, builders, architects, and citizens are encouraged to consider water quality in community planning and landscaping.
Many industrial and household chemicals such as mercury, PCBs, and endocrine disrupters contaminate water in Minnesota but it is actually non-industrial pollution (called non-point source pollution) coming from everyday living on the land that is the primary water quality problem in the United States. These pollutants, especially sediment and nutrients, are carried to lakes and streams as water runoff flows across disturbed lands.