Keeping campus water clean
America’s greatest river splits the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus into east and west banks, with the whole of campus resting within the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area. More than 50 communities rely on the Mississippi for their daily water supply, including Minneapolis and St. Paul. So it’s no surprise that the U of M takes water issues seriously.
Natural resources, including water, were considered under the climate resiliency assessment of the new U of M Twin Cities Climate Action Plan. The University collects and reuses about five million gallons of rainwater every year through a variety of means, including green roofs on buildings that capture rain water to reduce freshwater needs, rain gardens that filter pollutants, and state-of-the-art stormwater systems that manage the rate and quantity of rain water that flows to the Mississippi River.
Research snapshot: Welcome to the State of Water
Water is a vital topic of scholarship across the University. The U of M Water Council is a coalition of faculty, researchers, students, and staff working together to advance water-related research for a sustainable future.
Prairie restoration and rain gardens galore
More than 40 acres of lawns on campus have been converted to prairie, wildflowers, or lower-input turf varieties. One example: A space that was once the site of Norris Hall was recently turned into a natural prairie. The area covers 14,000 square feet and provides habitat for wildlife and native pollinators, while reducing the need for fertilizer and weed control in the area.
Meanwhile, rain gardens across campus reduce runoff to rivers and lakes, act as native pollinator gardens, and are often used for educational purposes. The Rapson Rain Garden is a Living Lab project (see sidebar) designed to turn an empty space into a sustainable development.
For these and other efforts, the U of M Twin Cities campus earned a “Bee Campus USA” designation in 2020.