How water gets from our river to the tap (and back)

by Peter LaFontaine

There's more to water than beloved lakes and rivers, but most of us don't know much about the systems that make it drinkable or flush it away. (Photo: USEPA/Eric Vance)

Minnesotans love water. We're the headwaters state. The land of lakes. The home of clean water.

But how much do we really know about our water?

Sure, we know it's "H2O" and freezes in the winter, and you can pull fish out of it, and sometimes it gets in your basement. But what about our daily interactions with it, or the systems that make that possible?

Recently, American Public Media found that "while Americans say they care about water-related issues and feel strong emotional connections to water, in reality, they know relatively little about the current state of water infrastructure in the U.S."

How about you? Let's try a pop quiz:

  • Where did the water for tonight's spaghetti come from?
  • What happens when you flush your toilet?
  • How much of YOU is made up of water?

Don't know for sure? That's OK! I couldn't answer those questions until recently, either. But thanks to some sleuthing and ace reporting by Minnesota's reporters, I have a much better understanding of the journey our water takes across the state, through our neighborhoods and eventually back to the mighty Mississippi.

Our favorite explainers

If you're curious about the ins, outs and throughs of our public water system, here are some great stories that can fill the gap.

So next time you're at a party and someone asks (from 6+ feet away and outdoors), "Hey, where does this ice in my lemonade come from?" you can show off your newfound brilliance, surely winning new friends and impressing old ones alike.


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