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Minn. House Backs Water Fee Hikes

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Democrats in the Minnesota House and Senate are looking for new ways to collect money. If their latest plan passes, that glass of water from your kitchen faucet may be getting more expensive.

The legislators are supporting fee hikes on every drop of water you use. It’s to help pay for environmental protection.

Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL – Minneapolis) says despite Minnesota’s nickname, we really don’t know how much water we actually have.

“I know this is hard for Minnesotans. We have all assumed that the water in our state is an infinite resource. After all, we’re the land of 10,000 lakes,” Wagenius said.

To monitor groundwater supplies and water quality, lawmakers are proposing fee hikes on every kind of water we use – from the kitchen tap to factories and farms.

Homeowners probably won’t notice as the water fee hike is about 75 cents a year. Heavy lawn sprinklers would pay about $4 more. But irrigated golf courses will get hit hard.

And farmers might see the biggest spike, with up to $3 more an acre – thousands of dollars more every year for the water they need.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski represents large farming counties in southeastern Minnesota. He says the fees disproportionately affect Minnesota’s agricultural centers.

“We’re going to create a bunch of water cops,” Drazkowski said. “Those fees are going to impact those farmers that rely on irrigation to make their business go, in order to produce the food for the people of Minnesota.”

But in a state with a long tradition of water tourism and trade, fee-hike supporters say the money will help monitor contamination and measure shrinking water supplies.

Republican critics of the water fee hikes say they are not necessary, and the state should use funds from Minnesota’s new Legacy Amendment to monitor groundwater levels and contamination.

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