The birth of the Land Grant universities was 150 years ago this year (see related story). Some policies fade with time, but this simple concept evolved and modernized over the decades, and we are still celebrating the ways that we can further improve and exceed the goals of the statute. The Morrilll Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862, with the goal of linking advanced knowledge and research to the development and productivity of the new American lands to the west. Initially the focus was to improve agricultural production, but as we moved to the 20th century, the land grant mission at our public research universities expanded greatly to include improving public health, and protecting and managing natural resources. The Water Resources Research Institutes, found at most Land Grant universities, are an integral part of this vision. They were created by Congress to focus university water expertise on the problems of the state and region, working with state and local governments and performing outreach and training.
The WRC is doing its best to fulfill this mission for Minnesota. We work with farmers to improve water quality, with municipalities on storm water best practices, with state agencies on a variety of water resource needs. We train septic installers, wetland delineators, and the next generation of water professionals.
Now we need to respond to the nation's needs of the 21st century, with 21st century vision and solutions. It is no longer about extracting all the non-renewable resources we can, or choosing economic success at the expense of our environment - it is now about designing sustainable approaches for society. Managing water resources in a sustainable manner is an essential part of the 21st century agenda. Now, more than ever, we need to work with the agricultural sector, cities, and our rural communities to protect our waters while promoting public health and a strong economic base. We need to address the impacts of climate change on water resources, and develop adaptation strategies for protection of water resources. Our challenges will grow in the coming decades - lets ensure that Morrill's vision continues to evolve and strengthen into the next century.