Research and reports

Water availability and 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.