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Project: Water availability project

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Thumbnail image for downloadable map: Water availability project

The product

Managing for Water Sustainability: A Report of the EQB Water Availability Project. The EQB adopted the final report on November 20, 2008.

A GIS prototype was created by EQB and LMIC staff for providing a broad perspective to proposed water use. Check out the Water Availability Information System tool.

Project next steps, DNR, EQB and partners

In addition to approving Managing for Water Sustainability at its November 20, 2008 Board meeting, the EQB directed the DNR to take the lead to evaluate models and tools to assess water availability and sustainability and the appropriate applications for resource management. In March 2009 the DNR created a Technical Work Group to pursue this charge, tapping  assistance from a group of  expert hydrologists. The group will work in 2009 and 2010 to generate guidance with the goal of advancing sustainable management of ground water.


In December 2007, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requested that the Environmental Quality Board establish an interagency working group to consider water availability issues in Minnesota. The agency was seeking a broader framework in which the state might evaluate current and future water uses.

In January 2008 the EQB created an interagency team to assist in drafting a project work plan. This plan was adopted by the EQB in February, and work group members have begun producing the elements called for in the plan.

The charge

The EQB charge identifies three project components:

  • Take a broad look at water availability and appropriations, including but not limited to issues specific to the ethanol industry, finding a way to put consideration of proposed water uses into a broader framework and perspective
  • Consider how the state might establish (and/or has established) protective and achievable standards to quantify and address the environmental impacts of proposed water uses
  • Summarize need and options for collecting additional data important to comprehensive and timely analysis of proposed water uses


Four assumptions define the project’s scope:

  • The project should be completed in six months.
  • The project should address the charge based upon existing data.
  • There is a need to provide better information to the public about our understanding of water availability and sustainability.
  • Today’s decisions would benefit from an understanding of the context of future needs.


To understand the broad issues related to water resources in Minnesota, the project should aim to answer the following questions:

  • What do and don’t we know about Minnesota’s ground water resources?
  • Can we make any estimates on water availability in a broad sense?
  • What’s our water resources management strategy?
  • Do we have a sustainable planning strategy? What is it?
  • What do we want to know from a resource management and planning perspective?
  • Can we identify the data gaps and develop tools that would improve our understanding in any of the areas we’d like to know more about?
Outcomes sought

People understand:

  • The steps followed and data used in the evaluation and permitting process, and how that process determines water availability and appropriations specific to large-water use permits
  • The standards used or needed to quantify and address the environmental impacts of ethanol plants and other water users, and how they protect Minnesota’s water resources and environmental quality
  • What we know and don’t know about ground water resources, the effects of a proposed new user, and long-term cumulative effects of water and land use
  • The need and urgency of additional information and research, improving data, information management and communications, and securing necessary funding and staffing needed to satisfy growing concerns about water availability
  • The links between water availability and other water-related environmental concerns
  • How today’s water permitting, availability and policy decisions fit with the long term view, including population and land development changes, commercial and industrial expansion, and climate change that might be reasonably expected in the future


Environmental Quality Board, 520 Lafayette Road North, Saint Paul, MN 55155

Technical problems? Contact: demography.helpline@state.mn.us