Minnesota Idea Open deadline looms: Got an idea for improving water?

For the second year in a row, the Minnesota Community Foundation is sponsoring a “Minnesota Idea Open” to solicit potential solutions to a big community issue. Last year, the topic was obesity. This year it’s water, a subject Ground Level is also taking a look at.

Entrants only have until Friday (July 15) to enter a bright idea and have a chance at winning $15,000 to help bring that idea to life.

So far, the contest has drawn more than 30 entries from regular people all over the state. Ideas include increased use of rain gardens to control storm water, privatizing watercraft inspections to save money, training well drillers to identify high-arsenic aquifers, running a consulting service that would show households how to conserve water, conducting storm water education for non-English speakers, posting cigarette pack-style warnings about invasive species at local lakes, and building a smart phone application that would identify aquatic plants.

Derek Tonn from Springfield wants to create an online “collective think-tank” where people could share notions for how to store excess water during heavy rain periods for use later in irrigation and energy production.

Many of the ideas focus on educating kids about the importance of water conservation, putting the focus on the next generation. Patricia Hall from the White Bear Lake-based group H2O for Life, wants to provide educational materials to schools and teachers in order to “ramp up a campaign to put a stop to bottled water” and promote tap water instead.

Another proposal would expand a Rice Creek Watershed District program that sends “resource teachers” into classrooms as substitutes. These teachers take kids on field trips where they learn about nature and water.

Jennifer Ellison from Plymouth submitted an idea for an H20pen Play Park, an educational water park that would teach children “to experiment and interact with water in a way that will create appreciation and understanding for its role in our lives.”

Not a bad offering so far. If you’ve got an idea up your sleeve for improving water quality or access in Minnesota, you have until Friday to enter. After that, a panel of judges will narrow the field to a few finalists, which the public will vote on.

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