The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 5, 2014

Water too precious to waste

Why it matters: Water isn't as abundant as we think in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The Mankato Free Press

---- — In the land of more than 10,000 lakes, you’d think lack of water is some sort of a joke.

The people in southwest Minnesota don’t think a water shortage is funny at all. They pay lots more for the precious resource than many of the state’s residents.

Mountain Lake’s wells have gradually pumped less in the last decade, according to Minnesota Public Radio News. City officials in the Cottonwood County city of 2,100 believe demand, drought and the general lack of groundwater are reasons for their shortage. The city doesn’t have enough water to run its filtration system efficiently, so minerals remain in the supply, hurting the water’s appearance and taste, the MPR report said.

The geology in that section of the state, with its clay soil, doesn’t allow as much natural storage of water as takes place in south-central Minnesota. But water experts across the state know that water resources need to be protected and conserved statewide, no matter what the geology.

In this region, we benefit from having more cooperative soil and natural aquifers that store water. Our city wells tap into them, but they can and sometimes do dry up. A couple of summers ago the city of Mankato was repairing a deep-aquifer well, and as a result, restricted water use. Even when the well was working again, the city retained restrictions on watering last summer, knowing conservation is important even when a drought is supposedly over.

That approach to recognizing water as a valuable resource won’t, and shouldn’t, fade anytime soon. State law mandates that cities put in place water conservation measures, which is prompting an end to volume discounts for large users in Mankato. City officials are revising the water rate structure to make bigger users pay a more fair share. Industry and other major consumers of water now get a 40 percent discount on water consumed beyond 225,000 gallons.

Although the economy loves new industry and the jobs that come with it, the effects on resources has to be taken into consideration when plans are made. After the Granite Falls Energy ethanol plant began operations in 2005, the water table started dropping, and some residential wells ran dry, MPR reported. The company eventually abandoned its wells and began drawing water instead from the river. The ethanol company also paid for new wells or other repairs for several residents of the area, according to the report.

Residents in the southwest portion of the state may be more aware of how precious water is because they face the shortfall or added expense in their daily lives. But there are no boundaries when it comes to water. A 2013 Department of Natural Resources study of south-central Minnesota groundwater in the Mount Simon Aquifer pinpoints critical water recharge areas: “The study has shown that protection of water resources in the Buffalo to Cambridge area has not only local implications but also is of significant importance for one of the major aquifers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.”

In other words, what you do or don’t do to your water resources can have an impact not just on you, but on others as well. Reusing, conserving and keeping water clean are in the best interest of everyone.

In their words

“We’re trying to look at being more resilient, more sustainable in what we’re up to. We’re just really concerned about water usage. How we’re leaving it for the next generation.”

Judy Harder, owner of Jubilee Fruits and Vegetables in Mountain Lake.