Since 1989, the Adopt a River program has removed millions of pounds of trash from our rivers. Freshwater will drive its continued growth.
Minnesota’s history and development are deeply rooted in our rivers. For the Dakota-Sioux, who depended on these waterways for trade, the center of the Earth is found at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers—a sacred symbol of creation. With the passing of the fur trade, rivers and their tributaries became the life’s blood of Minnesota’s seminal lumber and grain milling industries. Today, sixty percent of all grain exported from the US is shipped on the Mississippi River.
But our rivers do more than sustain our economy—they’re also an essential source of fresh water. The Mississippi alone supplies water to more than 18 million people. In view of growing freshwater scarcity, the preservation of Minnesota’s rivers is increasingly vital. For more than 30 years, this has been the mission of the Adopt a River (AAR) program, which has found a new home at Freshwater.
3200 cleanups – and counting
AAR was launched in 1989 when it became clear that existing conservation programs were falling short. The 1972 Clean Water Act, while significantly decreasing the amount of point-source pollution in the Mississippi, had failed to reduce a variety of pollutants that did not emanate from specific locations. A study conducted by the United States Geological Survey found that much pollution in the Mississippi was brought on by the rapid settlement and commercialization of its shores.
In response, Governor Rudy Perpich tasked a variety of state agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources, and the Pollution Control Agency with developing a sustainable clean-up initiative that would instill community responsibility for Minnesota’s neglected public waters. The AAR program evolved from this mission.
Since 1989, AAR has facilitated more than 3,200 surface water clean-up initiatives, resulting in the removal of 6.5 million pounds of trash from 11,000 miles of Minnesota shoreline. True to its vision as a community-based initiative, more than 90,000 volunteers have taken part in AAR clean-up efforts, contributing 300,000 hours of valuable service. Along the way, AAR has developed long-lasting relationships with the communities it supports, never losing sight of the importance of fostering a shared sense of environmental concern and accountability. As an organization supported by Minnesota communities, Freshwater has long shared AAR’s dedication to empowering individuals as conservators of water. We’re confident our cultures are perfectly matched.
A spirit of renewal
If you’ve been to the State Fair in past years, you may have come across some strange and captivating sculptures created by AAR volunteers. Formed from trash picked out of our natural watersheds, nothing better symbolizes the joyful spirit of renewal of AAR volunteers. Freshwater is honored to have been given stewardship of this wonderful program, and we’re looking forward to infusing AAR with new ideas and energy. We invite you to join us!
– Emily Grey, Freshwater intern