Freshwater report examines
Are Minnesotans over-using groundwater in ways that could leave us short of water – for human uses and for the environment – in the future? The short answer to that question is: Yes, in some places across the state.
A new Freshwater Society report estimates that total reported groundwater pumping increased by about 2.8 billion gallons per year from 1988 through 2011. That adds up to a 31 percent increase over that period. By comparison, the state’s population increased 24 percent in the same period.
Agricultural irrigation, the second-biggest use of groundwater and the fastest-growing use by far, increased an estimated 73 percent during those years. Pumping by city water systems, the biggest single use, increased an estimated 33 percent.
The Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Metropolitan Council’s top water planner warn that current pumping levels are unsustainable, or close to becoming unsustainable, in some areas. The shrinkage of White Bear Lake over the last decade is a graphic illustration of that unsustainability.
The 24-page Freshwater report looks at progress being made on groundwater on a number of fronts:
- Greater attention to the connections between groundwater and lakes, streams and wetlands.
- More focus on the precipitation flowing into aquifers and being discharged from them on an annual basis, rather than just the amount of water stored in them.
- Movement by the DNR to consider the cumulative impact on aquifers of existing pumping plus all the well owners lining up to pump from the aquifers.
The report also outlines shortcomings in the DNR’s enforcement of laws requiring well owners to get state permits for high-capacity pumping. DNR supervisors told the Freshwater Society they believed 10 percent of irrigation wells may not have required permits. A Freshwater Society comparison of two state data bases suggests the percentage could be significantly higher.
And the report recommends higher state fees for groundwater pumping as a spur to conservation.
Read a PDF of a Pioneer Press op-ed column in which Freshwater Society President Gene Merriam supports enactment of those fee increases. Read a Star Tribune editorial backing the fee increases. Read a MinnPost column on groundwater.
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Groundwater lecture is re-scheduled June 6
Don Rosenberry, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist who was part of the research team that studied the dramatic decline in White Bear Lake, will give a free public lecture on the interaction of groundwater and lakes, streams and wetlands.
The lecture, sponsored by the Freshwater Society and the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, has been re-scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 6.
The talk is titled: Not Just for Scientists Anymore: Why the Public Should Care About the Connection Between Groundwater and Lake, Streams and Wetlands.
Conserve water on landscaping
It’s the time of year that many people are working on their lawns and landscaping. Learn what you can do to conserve water and have a green lawn.
Freshwater wins energy-conservation award
The Gray Freshwater Center, the Freshwater Society’s home in Excelsior, is one of two top winners in an energy-conservation competition that included buildings across the Twin Cities.
In the competition – sponsored by the Building Owners and Managers Associations of Greater Minneapolis and St. Paul and Xcel Energy – owners of 74 participating buildings cut their annual electrical use by 9 million kilowatt-hours. Read more about the competition and Freshwater’s conservation practices..
Master Water Stewards
The Freshwater Society and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District are partnering to recruit and train volunteer Master Water Stewards who will work in their communities to help individuals and organizations clean up and protect lakes, streams and wetlands.
The three-year pilot project, funded by $321,945 from the state’s Clean Water Fund, is patterned after Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs.
Read all about it: An April newsletter
Check out our April 2013 Facets of Freshwater newsletter. Download a PDF to read a column by Freshwater President Gene Merriam, learn about our new report on groundwater sustainability and get the latest on the Water Stewards program.
Info and games for kids
Kids, teachers, and parents, listen up! We have recently expanded our website! There is a new Freshwater page created for people who are just starting to learn about fresh water. Before we can fix the many problems lakes, rivers and groundwater face, we need a basic understanding of the Earth’s water. Try out the fun games and informative sources on this expanded page.