Once thought to have an essentially inexhaustible groundwater supply, Minnesotans are now realizing our rates of use are regionally unsustainable. Recent advanced modeling by the MN DNR and Metropolitan Council of aquifer supplies, in conjunction with predicted demand, indicate the major metropolitan area aquifers are currently subject to extraction rates that exceed recharge. Simply stated, we are mining our groundwater. In addition to supply concerns, several surface waters within the metro area, most notably White Bear Lake, are experiencing impacts due to reduced aquifer levels associated with excessive groundwater extraction. Sustainable groundwater strategies are needed to influence both the supply and use side of the water budget. Supply can be increased through efforts that infiltrate precipitation into the soil; use can be decreased by implementing efficiencies, and the use of alternative water sources.
For this project, the Metro Conservation Districts (MCD) is working to provide groundwater conservation planning protocols to member districts for implementation on large-acreage, public campuses (e.g. public schools and government facilities). These areas are targeted due to their educational benefits, likelihood of stakeholder buy in and implementation, magnitude of potential impact, and opportunity for school district-wide implementation.
This project will provide and apply a systematic approach to identify and rank groundwater conservation BMPs in terms of cost-effectiveness. Similar to the statewide benefits provided through the stormwater retrofit analysis process, MCD is confident this protocol will expand to all areas of the state, thereby ultimately providing long-lasting, far-reaching groundwater conservation efforts. Because this ranking stems from a thorough understanding of both the benefits of a project and the associated costs, the findings will inform and facilitate adoption of new groundwater conservation standards by regulatory entities. Funding for the project is provided by a Clean Water Fund grant. The grant recipient is MCD and Anoka Conservation District is serving as the grant host.