Minnesota’s reputation as water rich may be
at risk. Counties in the Twin Cities-St. Cloud growth corridor already place
significant demands on their water resources, making water supply management a
special concern. In the remainder of the state, because water is not evenly
distributed, care must be taken by local and state officials in planning to
meet new demands.
A joint Environmental Quality
Board/Department of Natural Resources study, released this week, found that one
county – Ramsey – appeared to use more water than considered sustainable in the
long term, reporting use at 135 percent of renewable levels. The study also concluded
that water use in the vast majority of counties was less than 50 percent of renewable
levels. In Greater Minnesota, the story is less dramatic, with the range from
less than 1 percent in seven counties to 46 percent in Wright County.
Like the prudent trustee who
spends only the interest from a long-term investment and saves the principal
for future generations, the study considered whether Minnesota counties are only using those
waters considered renewable on a long-term basis. Ramsey, it appears, has begun
tapping its water “principal.” Projections suggest that Washington County
will join Ramsey in this status by 2030 and that Hennepin and Dakota counties will
be fully using their renewable supplies at that point.
According to Gene Hugoson, Environmental Quality Board chair, the
findings, while sobering, indicate more a cause for thoughtful response than
has long considered itself water rich. With the recent drought, we are reminded
that our water supplies are not unlimited. This study – the first assessment of
its kind in Minnesota
– brings that reality into sharper focus.”
The report,Use of Minnesota’s Renewable Water Resources: Moving Toward
Sustainability, calls for better information about Minnesota’s water resources, including
accelerated research to map and evaluate ground waters and define important
connections to surface waters. It also argues for better understanding of how
land use activities and water quality may affect future water supplies. The report
was prepared in response to Minnesota
Statutes, section 103A.43. It may be viewed at www.eqb.state.mn.us.
The Environmental Quality Board draws together the Governor’s Office,
five citizens and the heads of nine state agencies in order to develop policy,
create long-range plans and review proposed projects that would significantly
environment and development.