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Morris Hosts Water Quality Convening

Posted by Brittany Grady '17, Kaiserslautern on Monday, Apr. 28, 2014

On Thursday, March 27, the University of Minnesota, Morris Center for Small Towns (CST) partnered with the Office of Sustainability to host a convening called “Exploring the State of Water in West Central Minnesota.” With the help of two CST student researchers—Lily Mahan ’17, Edina, and Sharice Fontenot ’17, Vidor—several of Minnesota’s distinguished water practitioners came to Morris to discuss water quantity and quality.

In attendance were representatives of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Geological Survey, the University of Minnesota Extension, the Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, and other local associations.

Students and faculty members took great care to coordinate the convening effectively. “The first step in the process was to establish communicative relationships with the people we invited,” Fontenot says. “We wanted to learn what we could from them and shape the discussions around that.”

According to Fontenot and Mahan, the gathering was successful. “We plan to do it again,” says Mahan. “The panels were really informative, and we’re excited to connect even more with surrounding towns in the future.”

By initiating and participating in discussions like these, Morris expands its role in addressing water quality and other environmental issues.

“I think that Morris is unique because so many students seek to know more about the issues that affect us,” Fontenot adds.

Mahan concludes, “[We] could play a key part in connecting people and allocating resources to move them forward.”

Students first became concerned with water quality after CST student researcher Sam Lee ’16, Daegu, helped develop a quantitative model used to predict the city's chloride discharge. He tested Morris’s sewers for high chloride levels and used what he observed to estimate how amounts might increase in the future. The project introduced the Morris community to the world of water issues. It also motivated students and faculty to examine the issue of water conditions in west central Minnesota, which they sought to gain from the water practitioners directly.

This work was funded in part by an Institute for the Environment mini-grant. Additional information about the Institute available at