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The Topline: The coldest tap water in the lower 48?


The Topline: The coldest tap water in the lower 48?

Apr 08, 2024 | 7:00 am ET
By Christopher Ingraham
The Topline: The coldest tap water in the lower 48?
Somehow it's ice-cold, even in July. Photo by Getty Images.

Welcome to The Topline, a weekly roundup of the big numbers driving the Minnesota news cycle, as well as the smaller ones that you might have missed. This week: eclipse data; deer hunt power rankings; the effect of gun violence on young Minnesotans; and a neat little map of groundwater temperature.

AirBnBs are booked in the eclipse path

Last week an economist with a short-term rental analytics firm shared striking data of AirBnB bookings along the path of tomorrow’s totality. Communities within that path are completely booked for the night prior to the eclipse, while those just outside it are hardly affected at all.

Visually it echoes a clever XKCD comic on how the awesomeness of an eclipse depends on whether you’re in the path of totality or just outside it: the difference between 99% and 100% coverage is, almost literally, like day and night.

Interestingly the bookings for the last big American eclipse in 2017 aren’t nearly as well defined, according to the analytics firm’s data. It could be that more people are planning to travel for the eclipse this year, or that the use of AirBnB and other short-term rentals wasn’t as common seven years ago.

The heavy toll of gun violence on Minnesota young adults

From 2021 to 2023, people between the ages of 18 and 24 made up 8.8% of the state population, but accounted for almost 22% of gun violence victims, reports MinnPost.

Young men, especially young Black men, are disproportionately likely to both inflict and suffer from gun violence in Minnesota and elsewhere. From 2021 to 2023, Black Minnesotans made up 7.6% of the state population but an astonishing 44.3% of gun violence victims, according to Bureau of Criminal Apprehension data. 

That disparity owes in large part to a legacy of systemic racism that’s created crushing cycles of poverty and despair in many Black communities in the state. “Overwhelming evidence supports that racial bias in housing, education, and health care limit access to resources, and increasing exposure to risks in racial and ethnic marginalized communities can lead to grief and loss, higher levels of stress and trauma, and higher rates of interpersonal violence,” as a recent analysis published in JAMA Health Forum put it.

But in the era of active shooter drills and school lockdowns, virtually no community is untouched by gun violence. Evidence is mounting that the looming presence of that violence in young peoples’ lives is contributing to increased rates of depression and anxiety.

“It’s terrifying,” one young St. Paul resident told MinnPost. “It’s apocalyptic in a sense.”

Deer hunt power rankings

The Star Tribune recently undertook a somewhat subjective ranking of the best states for deer hunting. Criteria included rates and raw numbers of deer harvested, the popularity of hunting and availability of public hunting land, and the overall hunter success rate.

Somewhat surprisingly, Minnesota came in fifth on its paper of record’s handcrafted ranking, tied with Iowa. While the state ranks highly in the overall number of hunters and accessibility of hunting land, overall harvest numbers and hunter success rates are low. Expect the usual suspects to attempt to blame this on wolves.

Your best odds of successfully bagging a deer, by the way, are in Michigan. 

A fun little map of American groundwater temperatures

The Topline: The coldest tap water in the lower 48?
(Environmental Protection Agency)

One of the quirks of Minnesota life I discovered after moving here is that the water that comes out of the taps is absolutely frigid. And not just during the winter, but all summer long.

In Maryland, for instance, you can fill a kiddie pool with a hose at the beginning of May and the water will be refreshingly cool and comfortable right away. Here, on the other hand, when we’ve had to fill a wading pool for the kids, we often let it sit overnight to warm up to a non-painful temperature, even in the middle of July.

As it turns out, the reason for this is that northern Minnesota groundwater – the stuff that feeds most wells and municipal water supplies – is, on average, 10 degrees cooler than the water in Maryland. Sometimes even more. That’s according to the map above from the Environmental Protection Agency, which in turn comes from a 100-year-old U.S. Geological Survey study of groundwater temperature.

The map suggests that northern Minnesota has the absolute coldest groundwater in the continental U.S., with average temperatures in the high 30s. In Florida, by contrast, the average annual groundwater temperature is in the 70s. 

I do wonder if a more modern analysis would yield different results, however.

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