The Water Underground: Reframing the local groundwater picture

Despite Minnesota's long-standing identity as a water-rich state, we can no longer assume that our groundwater supplies are adequate everywhere to meet future demands. Aquifer levels are declining in multiple spots, adversely impacting communities and impeding economic growth. Moreover, unlike water crises playing out in southern and western states, these local declines are not caused by severe drought, nor would one be necessary to draw down reserves further. Minnesota has devised a system of shared groundwater management. Public water suppliers, given their critical influence over local groundwater supplies through planning, rate, and infrastructure management, can significantly change the long-term adequacy of local supplies to meet future needs. On the other hand, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), given its charge to ensure that groundwater use is sustainable, may be compelled to take a more active role in limiting or managing usage based on projected or documented declines, and threats to natural resources. Public suppliers have the most to lose if, or when, local groundwater resources decline significantly. Local measures taken now can improve the effectiveness and authority of their management, and ensure the long-term availability of groundwater supplies. In this report, we present recommendations to improve local groundwater management. Underlying our recommendations is the need to frame the urgency level required in local management, based on an assessment of the current state of local supplies. Thankfully, most Minnesota communities are in the "steady scenario," and fewest are in the "deficient scenario." Regardless of scenario, the ranges of possible actions are similar. We use this framework to inform and forge a common understanding of the urgency level required from management.
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Freshwater Society
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Minnesota Water Research Digital Library
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Creative Commons