Even in the land of 10,000 lakes, water is no longer unlimited. Lakes shrink, groundwater drops, wells go dry or get contaminated. Some cities have to look harder for good municipal water or pay more to treat it. Twenty years ago these were isolated problems. But three-quarters of Minnesota’s residents get their water from aquifer-tapping wells, and today parts of the state seem to be on a path that is not sustainable.
In the Twin Cities, a tussle is growing over whether growing suburbs should shift from tapping wells to pulling water from the Mississippi River. Elsewhere, Park Rapids, Marshall and other cities have had to spend millions of dollars to respond to dropping water levels or contamination. The state has mapped "areas of concern," and an ambitious plan to test 70,000 wells is renewing questions about how much farmers should be required to do to limit nitrate contamination in groundwater.
In coming months, this Ground Level project, "Beneath the Surface," will shine a light on the pressures on Minnesota’s groundwater and how residents, businesses and officials are being asked to adapt.
An MPR News investigation shows that several hundred Minnesota farmers are probably pumping groundwater to irrigate their crops without required permits, making it harder for the state to understand and regulate what's happening to a water resource increasingly seen as vulnerable.
Dave Peters, Ground Level editor, and Tom Weber, Daily Circuit host, discuss the impact of changes to water around Minnesota and how solutions are being approached.
February 17, 2014
Even in Minnesota, water is under stress
Jason Moeckel and Bruce Montgomery discuss water on the Daily Circuit
February 21, 2014
Read what others around Minnesota have to say and add your voice. We want to know what water problems you see in your community and elsewhere and what ideas you have about solutions to those problems.
For more than a century the brewery in Cold Spring has drawn increasing amounts of water for its operations from a nearby trout stream. But the state says it's time to stop, so the hunt is on for a new source of water. That's proving difficult.
Southeastern Minnesota has plentiful groundwater sources, but the geology in the region makes some of those sources vulnerable to contamination. So cities deal with the challenge by looking for clean water and urging conservation.
A 175 percent increase in irrigation pumping over 25 years has caused the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to single out this west central Minnesota area as one of three places to focus on groundwater management.
A new effort involving just about anyone from Lino Lakes to Woodbury is about to eclipse the scattered sprinkling limits and water-saving campaigns to rescue a shrinking White Bear Lake. A first step in getting Minnesota residents, businesses and others to think differently about how they use water.
"Minnesota’s Groundwater: Is our use sustainable?"[PDF] April 2013 report by the Freshwater Society.
"Groundwater Management Program." October 2013 strategic plan draft by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"Groundwater and the Mt. Simon Aquifer," a YouTube video primer by the Minnesota DNR on an important Twin Cities water source.
Minnesota's groundwater provinces, an explanation by the Minnesota DNR.
"Minnesota Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan," an August 2013 draft of a plan by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to deal with farm-caused nitrate contamination of groundwater.
Minnesota groundwater basics. [PDF] Minnesota Geological Survey.