A heavy load of sediment makes the Minnesota River look paler where it joins the cleaner Mississippi River in the Twin Cities. (2013, NAIP)In a new report released by the Environmental Working Group, entitled Broken Stream Banks, it is evident that Minnesota is not doing enough to protect their rural streams from pollution, including nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that flows all the way down to the Gulf to form the Dead Zone. According to the EWG report,Minnesota is a national leader in recognizing the importance of these buffers in combatting agricultural pollution. The state’s Shoreland Management Act confers legal protection of riparian buffers between most waterways and farmland. Like any other law, however, it must be enforced to be effective.By using aerial photography, GIS computer systems, and on-the-ground observations, they found that only 18% of streams in their study area had the buffers required by Minnesota State law.Basically a buffer is an area of grass or native vegetation between a field and a stream. This area can help capture and utilize pollution and topsoil that would otherwise flow off of the fields.This report is an excellent example of how we can use technology to enforce the laws that help keep our rivers clean. While, within the Mississippi Basin, we often look at Minnesota as a leader in many environmental practices, we see, just as it is here in the Gulf, that even the best laws don’t mean anything if the state isn’t willing or able to enforce them.You can view and download their report here. Matt is GRN’s Senior Policy Director.