Sustainable Use & Conservation


July & August Theme

Why Designate a Year of Water?

The Freshwater Society and partners want to raise the awareness among citizens about our water resources and how we can protect them in our everyday lives. We are providing education resources as well as activities for taking action to protect our lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and groundwater. From snow and ice to lakes and rivers, we will be covering six water topics in twelve months! Check back here frequently as we will be posting new information all year long.



We’ve got plenty of water, right? Get the facts on our water resources and learn easy ways to save some by taking our Water Audit.




About 90 percent of Minnesota residents get some or all of their water from underground aquifers. Total water use by all Minnesotan citizens and businesses varies from year to year. But between 1991 and 2005, two years with similar statewide rainfall, total groundwater use, covered by Minnesota Department of Natural Resource pumping permits, increased from 200 million gallons to 252 million gallons – up 26 percent. Minnesota’s population increased 18 percent over the same period. Both the quality and quantity of available groundwater are key issues in Minnesota. To a greater extent than residents of many other states, Minnesotans rely on groundwater for drinking water and for many other uses. Read more below about our groundwater resources.


New Resource from the UM Water Resources Center

A pocket guide to reducing your water footprint

The water footprint of an individual is the total volume of freshwater used to produce the goods and services consumed by that person every day. Each of us can reduce our water footprint by making wise choices everyday, as well as making long-term changes in our household habits. Click here to download the pocket guide.




Hidden Water Use



The April 2010 edition of National Geographic magazine features water resources around the world.

Learn more about how our water use is embedded in all of the products we use and consume from coffee to cotton find out what are the biggest users of water.





Do you waste water?

Around the World With One Question

Do you feel a twinge of remorse whenever you toss a bottle into the trash? If so, you’re not alone. In 9 of the 15 countries polled in a global survey, respondents felt the most green guilt for not recycling as much as they could. Wasting water ranked second. See how 150 people from 15 different countries answered the 1-question poll. And read their 13 Ways to go green to find out about everything from dishwasher use to recycling.–around-the-world-with-one-question–/article175467.html

Learn More: Ground Water Sustainability

What is ground water?

Ground water – some of it tens of thousands of years old and some of it as new as last week’s rainfall – flows through the sand, gravel and layers of bedrock beneath our feet. Ground water is everywhere in Minnesota. In some areas, it is as abundant as almost anywhere in the country. In other areas, it is relatively scarce. Ground water is continually being replenished by rain and melting snow, and water moves back and forth between aquifers and lakes, streams and wetlands.


Ground water Facts

  • About a quarter of all U.S. rainfall becomes ground water.
  • On average, about 30 percent of the flow in our streams is discharge from underground aquifers.
  • Hydrologists estimate total U.S. ground water reserves to be at least 33,000 trillion gallons – equal to the amount discharged into the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi River in the past 200 years.
  • About 500,000 new wells are drilled each year in the U.S. More than 12 million households have their own wells.
  • Across the country, irrigation is by far the largest user of ground water. In 2000, irrigation used 58 billion gallons of water each day.


Source: National Groundwater Association,


What is ground water sustainability?

Human uses of groundwater affect that natural cycle. When we pump ground water, we potentially draw down stores of water built over eons, and we may dry up wetlands or trout streams fed from underground sources.

In economic terms, the stored water is our savings account and the demands made by surface water systems are the bills we must pay for food, rent and other necessities.

Sustainability means reaching a limit on our pumping that maximizes the preservation of stored water and minimizes the damage to natural ecosystems. Determining sustainability is inherently difficult because groundwater is out of sight, hidden in sometimes-overlapping layers of sand, gravel and bedrock. Rainy years raise aquifer levels; droughts and heavy summertime pumping lower them.

Researchers and hydrologists from state agencies, the University of Minnesota, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Metropolitan Council have been studying sustainability for years. So far, they have reached no definitive consensus on how much ground water we have and how much we can safely pump without running out or without drying up surface waters we value. Learn more about ways to protect and conserve ground water.


Resources: Find Out More

Find out what you can do to save water and have a green lawn.

Find tips for using less water.

Take the water audit, an online tool for learning about your daily water use and how to reduce it.

Register for our E-Newsletter and stay informed about new programs and resources.

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