Research and reports

Water availability and use

The Water Underground: Implications for Agriculture and Opportunities for Change covers sustainable use of groundwater through an agricultural lens. This third and final report in The Water Underground series makes recommendations for groundwater quantity and quality to manage shared resources.

The Water Underground: Stretching Supplies focuses on three approaches to building groundwater resilience by stretching local supplies: reducing use, reusing water before discarding it, and recharging supplies. This report — the second in a series of three planned for 2016-17 — examines the crossroads Minnesotans face with groundwater use — we are using groundwater faster than it is being replaced — and makes recommendations focused on proven methods to manage supplies.

The Water Underground: Reframing the Local Groundwater Picture is targeted at public water supply managers – the public works directors, council members, and mayors of those municipalities operating water supply systems. This report — the first in a series of three planned for 2016-17 — tackles head on which portions of the state and metropolitan area currently have long-term water supply issues. This eliminates a major flaw of previous reports; namely, most cities hear about declining groundwater levels and assume it doesn’t apply to them.

USGS Groundwater Data for the Nation. U.S. Geological Survey web site.Updated November 2011.

USGS Surface Water Data for the Nation. U.S. Geological Survey web site. Updated November 2011.

Water Use in the United States. A 2011 U.S. Geological Survey report on water use in 2005. The report breaks down total water use — estimated at 410 million gallons per day — by state and county, by water soruce and water use.

Water use in Minnesota. A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web site that includes data analysis and a link to a spreadsheet showing permitted water use on a well-by-well basis from 1988 through 2011.

Minnesota’s Groundwater: Is our use sustainable? A Freshwater special report on groundwater use, estimates of increased pumping over time, expert opinions on the sustainability of that pumping, and problems in the Department of Natural Resources’ enforcement of a law and rules requiring permits for high-capacity pumping. Published April 2013.

Draft Groundwater Management Plan.  An October 2013 draft plan by the Minnesota DNR calling for major changes in the way the agency  regulates and manages groundwater use. The strategy, prompted by significant new state funding for groundwater initiatives, calls for better enforcement of existing rules requiring permits for high-volume pumping. The plan sets a goal of ensuring that no aquifers are used depleted by unsustainable use and ensuring that groundwater pumping does not damage surface waters.

Evaluation of Groundwater and Surface-Water Interaction: Guidance for Resource Assessment. A June 2010 Metropolitan Council report, prepared by Barr Engineering, describing what it called the “nearly insurmountable challenge” of protecting lakes, streams and wetlands from damage caused by groundwater pumping.

Groundwater Sustainability: Towards a Common Understanding. A white paper report on two workshops the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center and the Freshwater Society sponsored on groundwater sustainability in 2208 and 2009.

Geologic Atlas User’s Guide: Using Geologic Maps and Databases for Resource Management and Planning. A guide to Minnesota geology and groundwater, published in October 2012 by the Minnesota Geological Survey. The guide explains — with a minimum of technical jargon — how county geologic atlases are prepared and how they can be used by local officials and managers facing choices about planning, zoning, land use and resource use.

Water and Environmental Policy in Minnesota

Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan. Published November 2008 by the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment and the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. Click here.

Minnesota’s Nonpoint Source Management Plan 2013. Issued in draft form in mid-2013 by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Minnesota Nonpoint Source Management Program Plan. Published in 2008 by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard: An Assessment of Law and Policies. How good are Minnesota state laws at requiring and promoting efficient water use and conservation? About average, according to a scorecard issued by the Alliance for Water Efficiency and the Environmental Law Institute. The two groups gave Minnesota a score of 14.5, which was 13th among the states. Published September 2012.

Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy. Published December 2008 by the College of St. Catherine and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  Results of the third survey since 2001 of what Minnesotans know, and think they know, about the environment.

Evaluation Report: The Legacy Amendment. A program evaluation of Minnesota’s 2008 Legacy Amendment that amended the state Constitution to protect, enhance and restore water and the environment. Published November 2011.

Clean Water Peformance Report. A Minnesota inter-agency report on the 2010-11 spending from the Legacy Amendment and outcomes achieved with the spending.Published February 2012.

If It Looks Like a Duck. A Conservation Minnesota financial analysis of 2011 state appropriations for conservation and the environment. It suggests legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton used Legacy Amendment tax dollars to fund some state programs previously paid for with other taxes. Published January 2012.

Clean Water Grants for Nonpoint Source Protection and Restoration by the Board of Water and Soil Resources. An evaluation by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy of grants made in 2007-2010 by the BWSR board.

Water quality

Nitrogen in Minnesota Surface Waters. A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report on the estimated 306 million pounds of nitrogen that flow into Minnesota surface waters each year. The report looks at sources — more than 70 percent comes from agriculture — flow patterns — most reaches rivers and streams through farm tile drainage or the discharge of groundwater, and trends — concentrations in some watersheds seem to be improving and seem to be getting worse in others. Published in June 2013. Read the executive summary

Minnesota Nutrient Reduction Strategy. A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency proposal for a phased effort to reduce the nitrogen and phosphorus, primarily from agriculture, that flow into Minnesota streams and then down the Mississippi River and the Red River to the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Winnipeg. The plan calls for reducing the nitrogen and phosphorus going to the Gulf by 35 percent and 20 percent, respectively, by 2025. The strategy was issued in draft form in October 2013. Read comments that the Freshwater Society submitted on the strategy.

Condition of Minnesota’s Groundwater. A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency analysis of groundwater monitoring conducted between 2007 and 2011. The report says nitrate concentrations have generally not changed in 15 years; in Central Minnesota about 40 percent of shallow wells have nitrate in excess of the health standard; on average, shallow groundwater in agricultural areas has much higher nitrate concentrations than in urban areas. During the monitoring period, one-third of the wells across the state showed increased chloride concentrations. Published in September 2013. Read the executive summary.

Pharmaceutical and Endocrine Active Chemicals in Minnesota Lakes. A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report on research finding traces of many chemicals — including cocaine — in 50 randomly selected lakes. Published April 2013.

Draft National Rivers and Streams Asssessment 2008-2009 Report. An Environmental Protection Agency report finding that 55 percent of U.S. rivers and streams are inhospitable to fish and other aquatic life. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus, which stimulate algae growth, cause much of the pollution. Released March 2013.

State of the River Report: Water Quality and River Health in the Metro Mississippi River. A report by the Friends of the Mississippi River and the National Park Service documenting significant improvements, over time, in the Mississippi in the Twin Cities. The report also points out continuing and emerging threats to the river. Published September 2012.

Draft Minnesota River Total Maximum Daily Load Turbidity Report. Examines quantitites and sources of sediment in the Minnesota River. A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report. Issued February 2012.

Endocrine Active Chemicals and Other Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Minnesota Groundwater, 2009-2010. A Minnesota Pollution Control report on chemicals found in 40 monitoring wells. Published January 2012.

Nitrate in the Mississippi River and Its Tributaries, 1980 to 2008: Are We Making Progress? Research by the U.S. Geological Survey examining three decades of water testing up and down the Mississippi. Published in August 2011.

Reactive Nitrogen in the United States: An Analysis of Inputs, Flows, Consequences, and Management Options. An August 2011 report to the EPA from the agency’s Science Advisory Board.

Revisiting the Minnesota River Assessment Project. A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report on a survey of biological indicators for the health of fish and invertebrates in the river and its tributaries after three decades of effort to make the river fishable and swimmable. Published in May 2011.

Urban Storm Water Management in the United States. Published October 2008 by the National Research Council.

Arsenic, Uranium and Other Trace Elements, a Potential Concern in Private Drinking Wells. A U.S. Geological Survey report on research finding that arsenic and other trace elements contaminate 20 percent of private drinking wells in levels of potential health concern. Published August 2011.

Water and agriculture

Minnesota Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan. A draft revision by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture of 20-year-old guidelines for nitrogen fertilizer use. The plan is aimed at mitigating and reducing nitrate contamination of groundwater. The draft was issued in August 2013. Read comments on the plan submitted by the Freshwater Society.

Plowed Under. An Environmental Working Group and Defenders of Wildlife study reporting that high crop prices and crop insurance subsidies contributed to the conversion of more than 23 million acres of grass, wetlands and other animal habitat into fields of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and other crops between 2008 and 2011. The report was based on satellite images of farmland collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published in August 2012.

Troubled Waters: Farm Pollution Threatens Drinking Water. An Environmental Working Group report on pollution of surface and groundwater by farm fertilizers. Published April 2012.

Excess Nitrogen in the U.S. Environment: Trends, Risks, and Solutions. Published January 2012 the Ecological Society of America.

Assement of the Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Upper Mississipp River Basin. Published June 2010 by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Nitrogen in Agricultural Systems: Implications for Conservation Policy. Published September 2011.

Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States.Published October 2007 by the National Research Council.

Losing Ground. An Environmental Working Group report on soil erosion. Published April 2011.

Big Chicken. A Pew Environment Group report on water pollution related to the production of broiler chickens in the U.S. Published in July 2011.

Climate change

Adapting to Climate Change in Minnesota. Published in November 2013. This report is the work of people from a number of state agencies working under the umbrella of the 2013 interagency Climate Adaptation Report. It contains lots of data and graphics on climate changes that have occurred or are predicted to occur, and a review of what state agencies are doing to plan for and mitigate the effects of climate change. The report also contains links to a draft National Climate Assessment from 2013, and a Georgetown University web site that reports state-by-state climate change planning.

Climate Change 2007 Synthesis Report.Published November 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Invasive species

Water Recreation Economy at Risk from the Potential Spread of Asian Carp in Minnesota. A DNR attempt to quantify the potential cost of Asian Carp spreading throughout Minnesota. Published May 2012.

Long-Term Funding Needs for Aquatic Invasive Species Programs. DNR report to the Legislature. Published January 2012.

Invasive Species of Aquatic Plants and Animals in Minnesota. DNR annual report to the Legislature. Published December 2011.