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Media release
Panel sees limits to state water supplies

Description: State study finds metro counties near limits to sustainable water use
Date: April 4, 2007
Subject(s): Environmental policy; Environmental assessment; Regional planning; Water policy; Water supply
Creator(s): Minnesota Environmental Quality Board; Minnesota Environmental Quality Board. Water program
Publisher: Minnesota Environmental Quality Board
Contact: ,
Related works:
Use of Minnesota's renewable water resources: Moving toward sustainability (506.16K, .pdf) | Report details
Water sustainability assessment (HTML file) | Project details

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 alarm. “Minnesota 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 influence Minnesota's environment and development.

Alternative resource record formats: XML | MARC record (for inclusion in library catalogs)

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

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