A child plays in a Minnesota lake.
Child Splashing A child plays in a Minnesota lake. © iStock

Stories in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota

Our Water: Campaign for Clean Water

Our Lives Depend on Water

From the water we drink to the food we eat, the quality of our lives is intrinsically connected to the health of our waters. We rely on our lakes, rivers and groundwater for our sustenance, recreation, health, economy and so much more. It’s a point of pride for us; we’re home to one of the world’s great rivers and the largest freshwater lake on Earth. And integral to the health of these waters is the health of our lands.

Contact us to make a gift for clean water.

Our Waters are at Risk

This first line of defense against water pollution—our forests, wetlands and prairies—is at risk as local populations grow and put increased pressure on our lands. Currently, Minnesota ranks #2 in the nation for deforestation, and grasslands across Minnesota and the Dakotas are disappearing even more rapidly than tropical rainforests.

Water Depends On Us How we're leading in water protection at home and around the world.
Land Conversion or Nature Our region's water is getting dirtier. It's time to clean up our act. (Click to enlarge.)

What Happens on Land Impacts Water

This loss of natural lands has direct consequences for our water. Increased sedimentation, nutrient runoff and flooding all contribute to water degradation in our lakes, rivers and groundwater. Wetlands, prairies and forests all play a critical role in keeping our water clean by providing a natural filtration system. In order to protect our water, we must protect the lands through which it flows.

Our Priorites

  • Aerial view of the Mississippi Headwaters.

    Protect the Mississippi's Headwaters

    With your support, we can secure clean drinking water for more than 2.5 million Minnesotans by protecting the iconic Mississippi River, its most important tributaries and their surrounding lands. Learn What We're Doing in the Headwaters

  • A TNC representative talks to a farmer.

    Reduce the Impact of Agriculture

    To protect our water from runoff and sediment overload, we’re working with ag to solve our water issues by sharing practices that increase soil health, improve nutrient management and protect water. Dig Into Our Ag Work

  • Forested coastline of Lake Superior.

    Protect Lake Superior by Protecting Forests

    Lake Superior and its tributaries depend on healthy forests, and the forests need our help. Help us plant another 4 million trees in northern Minnesota so we can preserve these streams for the future. Explore Our Reforestation Work

  • A horse and rider at sunset.

    Protect Grasslands to Protect Waters

    Prairies: our first defense against flooding and degraded water. And yet, they’re just a fraction of what they once were. That’s why we’re working to protect and restore key grasslands in our region. Learn How Grasslands Protect Water

Our Water, Our Legacy

Help secure a future in which all of us have access to clean drinking water and places to safely fish, swim and play. We can protect Minnesota’s famously clean water if we act now. To learn how you can make a charitable donation for clean water, wildlife and future generations, please contact Mavis Lindstrom at mlindstrom@tnc.org.

The Case for Conservation

By following the science, we’re able to identify the most impactful areas in which to prioritize conservation work. By following the economic models, we’re able to demonstrate the monetary value of protecting our waters now while we still can.

We face a choice in Minnesota today: Act now or do nothing and spend billions later. The Nature Conservancy's approach to water protection is the most strategic, scalable and economically smart way to protect our waters.

Ecolab Chairman & CEO, Our Water Campaign Co-Chair

Not only does this approach to protecting water save us money in the long-term, it also provides us with tangible economic and quality-of-life benefits in the near-term.

A boy drinks water out of a fountain.
Protection or Remediation We can invest in protecting the Mississippi now, or spend billions to clean it up later. © iStock.com / Goldcastle7

Case Study: The Economics of Acting Now in the Mississippi River Headwaters Area

Our scientists have pinpointed the 200,000 acres in the Mississippi’s 13-million-acre headwaters area that are most critical to securing the river’s clean waters. 

With your support, we’ll work to protect and restore these critical areas which would yield the following benefits between 2020 and 2050.

  • Reduced Water Treatment Costs

    By protecting clean water in the Mississippi River's headwaters while it's still clean, cities and counties will save an estimated $61 million on water treatment costs.

  • Avoided Flood Damages

    By protecting and restoring the land around the Mississippi and its most important tributaries, we can expect to save about $28 million in avoided flood-related damages.

  • Retained Property Values

    Acting now to protect our rivers, lakes and streams would translate to about $32 million in retained property values for homeowners and businesses in the headwaters area.

  • Carbon Sequestration

    By protecting and restoring our waters, healthy prairies, forests and wetlands, we’ll also reap indirect benefits of about $243 million in the form of carbon sequestration.

It is possible to save our water, protect our way of life and secure clean water for current and future Minnesotans. But in order to achieve this goal, we must act now and we must work together.