Archived Story

Common sense needed to preserve groundwater

Published 10:10am Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In my guest column last week, you read about Minnesota’s increasingly unpredictable weather, such as our prolonged drought and the likelihood of more flooding this spring, and the serious consequences it poses to thousands of families’ livelihoods and our economy overall.

Certainly government does not have the ability to control what Mother Nature throws at us, but managing how we react can have a big impact on our communities. Becoming more considerate and smarter when it comes to consuming natural resources is critical for us economically and environmentally.

This week, I want to talk to you about a similar yet completely man-made problem: shrinking groundwater supplies. When combined with problems like our ongoing drought, the need to take common sense steps to ensure a sustainable supply of high quality water is more apparent than ever.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, surface water and groundwater supplies may be at risk if current consumption rates continue. Right now, 75 percent of Minnesotans get their drinking water from groundwater.

If current trends continue, communities across Minnesota will likely face greater economic hardship. For example, the City of Marshall is looking to meet growing water demands, but it would come at a cost of $16 million to $18 million to build a pipeline to a new aquifer. In Fairmont, plans to reopen an emergency backup well would help meet demand, but water treatment will cost the city up to an additional $300,000 every year.

As Minnesota grapples with an ongoing drought, we need to examine our options for ensuring sustainable water sources over the long haul.

This week, the Minnesota House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee discussed HF 1679. The bill modifies our state’s water fee structure and beefs up the Department of Natural Resources’ ability to monitor local water supplies to address a lack of reliable data on how water sources are being used.

Under the proposed legislation, the rate for residential water supplied by municipal, community or private suppliers increases from an average of about 0.00075 pennies per gallon of water used to 0.0015 pennies per gallon of water used. Agricultural irrigation, commercial, industry, and power generation water use fees would increase from a rate that currently varies from 0.0003 to 0.0008 pennies per gallon up to 0.0035 pennies per gallon.

Governor Dayton initiated the proposal after hearings early in the legislative session on water use and potential consequences. The $2.5 million appropriated for fiscal year 2014 and over $6 million for fiscal year 2015 will provide funding for projects such as studying the cumulative impacts of existing and proposed permits, as well as enhancing Minnesota’s County Geologic Atlas program.

If we don’t take time to address Minnesota’s growing water shortages now, the problem could get much worse and much more expensive down the road.

As Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson recently said, the long-term benefit of better water monitoring will help farmers protect their initial investment and ensure adequate water resources for future generations.

As always, please contact me with any questions, comments, or ideas. You can reach me by phone at 651-296-4193, by email at, or by postal mail at 487 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.

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