The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 30, 2014

Pipes lengthen, water costs rise in southwest Minn.


Earlier this month, for example, the St. Peter-based Center for Rural Policy and Development wondered in a report, “How many cities that would otherwise have growing economies are held back because their water supply or their infrastructure is strained to the point where the state must impose a moratorium on adding one more home bathroom or business restroom?”

Mountain Lake dilemma

Bar owner Diane Radtke was not happy as she scooped up ice cubes in her downtown Mountain Lake business. She pointed to a cloudy layer in each cube that she said came from the extra minerals in the city water supply.

“We need help,” Radtke said.

During the past decade the town’s wells have gradually pumped less and less water. Mountain Lake officials aren’t sure exactly why, but they believe it’s a combination of demand, drought and the general lack of groundwater in this part of the state. At this point, the city of about 2,100 residents doesn’t have enough water to run its filtration system efficiently, so minerals remain in the supply, hurting the water’s appearance and taste.

Standing on the north side of town, Mountain Lake water Supt. Kevin Krahn recalled a years-long effort to find water.

“We did one test well there,” he said, pointing. “We went down below in the park and did three test wells there and just never came up with any formation worth actually drilling a well.”

Last year, the city finally found a promising site and plans to drill a new well later this year. The city’s cost for the well and the connecting pipeline will be about $500,000.

But even if the new well eventually provides sufficient supply, it probably won’t be in time for the heavy demand of summertime. Unless the weather turns wet, Mountain Lake residents are probably heading for restrictions on water use.

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