With the recent downpours across Minnesota, it may feel like water is an unlimited resource in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. However, even record-breaking rainfall will not solve the problem of depleting groundwater, which continues to threaten the state’s water supply.
This month’s heavy precipitation caused White Bear Lake’s suffering water level to rise significantly for the first time in five years. But due to over-draining of groundwater, this fix is only temporary. The lake will soon revert back to its staggeringly low level.
Groundwater is pumped from the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer that feeds White Bear Lake. Unsustainable draining lowered water levels enough to drastically impact the lake’s health, impair regional tourism, and raise the risk of vanishing water supply.
Groundwater constitutes more than 70% of the region’s water supply, according to the Metropolitan Council. Once the water is drained, used, and treated, it exits the state through the Mississippi River. With more and more groundwater needed for drinking, irrigation, pollution containment, and landscaping, this process effectively empties Minnesota’s water reserves.
The state cannot wait any longer to prioritize water conservation and depart from this unsustainable path. Last month, Minnesota lawmakers allotted $400,000 for designing a much-needed solution.
The first step is to diversify supply sources. Instead of relying so heavily on groundwater sources, Minnesota should take advantage of surface water in the Mississippi. This investment would replenish groundwater, restore lake levels, and ensure future water access.
This task will require money and time, but reducing our water usage can and should be immediate. All water users, which is to say every Minnesotan, must develop creative changes to conserve water in the workplace, outdoors, and at home.
Minnesota is stepping up to this challenge. The new Metro Green Line includes an award-winning stormwater management system, which captures and treats runoff to reduce Mississippi River pollution. The cities of Burnsville and Savage partner in a shared water treatment and supply system. A handful of golf courses in the state are investing in stormwater ponds to water their grass.
These collaborative, innovative revisions must extend to all Minnesota communities, governments, and businesses. Progress is being made, but Minnesota still requires a lot of work to repair damage and settle into an attainable and sustainable groundwater management routine.