Our groundwater sources are in trouble! Aquifer levels are going down, city wells are drying up, and pollution is appearing in more areas. At the same time, regional growth will need more water for homes, businesses, and agriculture. The region needs a new approach to supplying water.
Considerations (Did you know?)
-- The region uses 1.3 billion gallons per day of water from two sources:
- Surface water – mostly from treatment plants in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
- Groundwater – pumped from underground aquifers, the main source in communities developed in the last 50 years.
-- Water pumped from aquifers has risen from approximately 20 percent of the region’s supply in 1950 to 70 percent today.
-- Aquifer levels are declining, in some locations as much as one foot per year, demonstrating the depletion of a scarce resource.
-- Conservation strategies have had an effect. Some communities have documented up to 20 percent less water use per person over the past decade. This will extend the capacity and life of existing water systems.
-- By 2040, the region will add 893,000 residents, whose water use will outpace water savings from individuals.
-- To accommodate growth and protect aquifers in the long term, the most feasible strategy is to use more water from rivers. Benefits include groundwater protection and increased community resiliency. Concerns include treatment expense and the addition of new pipe infrastructure – which together create the need for funding, new institutional structures and legislation.
-- To protect aquifer water quality in the long term, the most cost-effective approach is to manage aquifer recharge areas. Benefits include the protection of drinking water quality and public health. Concerns include new restrictions on land use in certain areas.
As you respond to the following questions, consider how the Thrive outcomes, principles and goals inform your responses as well as what tensions you discover that might inform public policy. How do we recognize success?
- How could the region build differently?
How could the region preserve groundwater recharge areas and increase the quantity of groundwater recharge while still accommodating growth? What would be the implications of planning growth around water conservation?
- How could the region expand the use of surface water, and who should be involved?
What are the problems? Opportunities? What are the cost implications? Who pays? What would be equitable? Who should be at the table in addressing these issues? Who’s in charge? Who decides? What are the roles of the individuals, cities, counties, the region and state?
- How should water supply strategies align with other activities to achieve local and regional goals?
For example, how should water supply strategies link to planning for transportation, housing and natural resource protection?