Over 200 people gathered at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis on April 11 to participate in the Watershed Event put on by Students for Design Activism in partnership with Floodplain Collective and the University of Minnesota. Attendees included landscape architects, state agency employees, planners, academics, activists, students and citizens, all gathered to continue and start conversations about how Minnesota relates to its water.
Bill Wenk of Wenk Landscape Architecture and Planning gave the keynote address, comparing Minnesota’s water issues to those of the American west. While the demands for water and the policies that shape its distribution are different Minnesota than in Colorado or the arid Southwest, both geographies face a challenging future as populations rise, climate changes, groundwater supplies dwindle and rivers’ flows change.
Brian Hicks of the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition, John Linc Stine of the MN Pollution Control Agency and Dave Peters of Minnesota Public Radio’s Ground Level discussed how Minnesota is beginning to address its water problems, ranging from farms run by smart technology and monitoring systems that control tile systems to state-wide comprehensive policy shifts. After the screening of the film, Dorene Day of the Indigenous Poeples Task Force, Matthew Tucker of the University of Minnesota and Deborah Swackhamer of the University’s Water Resource Center shared their reactions to the film and thoughts about our water future.
Dave Peters wrote a reflection that encapsulates the broad range of visions present at the event. Some of the panelists present (and characters in the film) saw policy as the avenue for change, while others spoke of storytelling or prayer as agents of change. As a student who watched my peers (Emily Lowery and Solange Guillaume) guide the whole symposium into existence from a kernel of an idea to a successful, extremely well-attended event, I would argue that the future of change around issues like this will come from the few driven individuals like them who continue to raise important questions and challenge the status quo. I hope that those who attended the event not only begin asking the kind of questions about water use and preservation that were raised that Friday, but also begin to ask themselves what power they themselves have to bring about the change in the world they dream of, much like Emily and Solange did.