DNR Update for the N&E Metro GWMA Project

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DNR Update for the N&E Metro GWMA Project


Groundwater is vital to Minnesota’s prosperity. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has initiated a planning process to establish a Groundwater Management Area (GWMA) in the North & East Metro. The proposed working boundary for the North & East Metro GWMA includes all of Ramsey and Washington counties, the southern portion of Anoka County, and a portion of Hennepin County. The GWMA planning process will produce a plan to guide our actions in the area. Formal designation of the GWMA will take place at the end of the planning process when the Commissioner of the DNR approves the plan. Implementation will begin following formal designation of the GWMA.

The DNR formed a Project Advisory Team (PAT) to provide advice and feedback during the GWMA planning process. The Project Advisory Team included cities, permitted users, private businesses, conservation districts, and other state and local agencies. The Project Advisory Team met through the planning process from October 2013 through May of 2015. Meetings were open to the public. Guests attending were encouraged to participate in the meetings.

More information about the GWMA is posted on the DNR project website.


The draft North & East Metro Groundwater Management Area (GWMA) Plan is in final review within the Department of Natural Resources. Stakeholders will be informed when the status of the plan changes from draft to final and when action is taken by the Commissioner of the DNR to designate the GWMA.


Much has taken place this summer related to the N&E Metro GWMA, water supply planning, and studies related to groundwater and surface water resources. Here are some highlights.

DNR Thresholds for Negative Impacts Study

The Omnibus Special Legislative Session included a requirement that the DNR develop statutory or rule definitions and thresholds for negative impacts to surface waters resulting from groundwater appropriations. The need to better define these thresholds was addressed by the N&E Metro GWMA Project Advisory Team. The Legislature directed the DNR to consult with interested stakeholders and submit a report by December 15, 2015. The DNR has formed a stakeholder advisory group to provide input on the project and the report. Advisory group members come from a range of organizations including agricultural interests, environmental interests, businesses, community water suppliers, and local government organizations. For further information or to sign up for bulletins on this project, see the project webpage.

DNR Groundwater Modeling Program

The use of groundwater computer models will become more important where there may be cumulative effects from many users. To address this, DNR has begun a process to develop a modeling program that can be applied in areas like the three GWMAs, and other places in Minnesota where cumulative effects may be negatively impacting resources.

Metropolitan Council Activities

The Metropolitan Council is engaged in a number of activities that relate to the N&E Metro GWMA, including:

Water Rate Study.   The Metropolitan Council is in the final phase of a study titled “Twin Cities Regional Water Billing Analysis.” The study provides a detailed look at water rates across the metro, and compares rates to water use and other parameters. Watch for the final report by October 2015.

MNTAP Water Conservation Study. The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) will identify opportunities for industrial water users in the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area to reduce their water consumption as part of the Department of Natural Resources strategies under the GWMA plan. Several approaches will be used for this effort in order to reach, inform, and interact with a broad range of industrial users. Completion of the study in expected in the fall of 2015.

Recharge Study. The Metropolitan Council, in conjunction with HDR Engineering, Inc. consultants, is evaluating the potential to reuse stormwater or recharge groundwater aquifers in the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area. This work will provide a first step in evaluating these approaches in the groundwater management area, and will provide guidance for the Board of Water and Soil Resources and other agencies to use additional grant resources to move projects toward implementation where they are found to be beneficial to water resources in the region. Completion of the study in expected in the fall of 2015.

Master Water Supply Plan. The Master Water Supply Plan for the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area was recommended for approval by the Metropolitan Area Water Supply Advisory Committee on September 16. The Master Water Supply Plan is updated every 10 years and provides the framework for water supply planning in the metro. The full Metropolitan Council will take up the plan at a future meeting, and provide the final review and vote on whether to approve the plan.

Individual City Water Supply Plans. Water Supply Plans for individual cities must also be updated every 10 years. Typically the plans for cities across the state are completed over a staggered time frame. The DNR is developing a schedule for those updates and it is the preliminary recommendation that cities in the N&E Metro GWMA be completed in Phase I, or by December 2016.

Water Efficiency Grant Program. The Metropolitan Council will implement a water efficiency grant program effective September 30, 2015 to June 30, 2017. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to municipalities that manage municipal water systems. Grantees will be required to provide estimated water savings achieved through this program. Contact the Metropolitan Council for more information or to submit a grant proposal.

Washington County Municipal Water Coalition

Cities in Washington County formed the Washington County Municipal Water Coalition. With financial and technical support from the Metropolitan Council, the Coalition will complete a water supply alternatives analysis, looking at all options for future water supplies that range from a St. Croix water source and new water treatment plants to reuse of water extracted for pollution containment to connections to the St. Paul Regional Water Services system for water from the Mississippi River. The Coalition expects to complete the study in early 2016.

Woodbury Water Conservation Video

The City of Woodbury created and circulated an upbeat music video extolling the virtues of limiting lawn watering.   DNR re-tweeted the video and 3,000 individuals watched the video. In addition to the views on Twitter, it has been viewed more than 50,000 times. Here is the link to the video:

USGS NE Twin Cities Groundwater-Surface Water Interactions Study

Staff from the USGS Minnesota Water Science Center has continued work on a study of groundwater-surface water interactions in the N&E Metro GWMA. The objective of the USGS work is to characterize groundwater and surface water interactions in northeast Twin Cities Metropolitan Area lakes and the response of lake water levels to changes in precipitation and groundwater flow conditions.  The primary tasks include:

  1. Complete statistical analysis of existing hydrologic information for selected NE Twin Cities lakes.
  2. Conduct a water-quality assessment including stable isotopes and age-dating analysis.
  3. Develop a groundwater flow model to assess groundwater/surface-water interaction.

The final report is expected in late 2016.

Other DNR Groundwater Management Areas

The DNR and Project Advisory Teams for the two other GWMAs, the Bonanza Valley GWMA and the Straight River GWMA, have had active summers, completing draft plans and holding public open houses to introduce stakeholders to the plans and receive stakeholder feedback. For more information, go the projects webpage.


North & East Metro GWMA Project Advisory Team Meeting

The next meeting of the Project Advisory Team has not been formally scheduled, but is tentatively planned for November 13, 2015. More information about the planned meeting and the agenda will be posted on the project webpage.

Individuals do not need to be on the Advisory Team to attend. The Advisory Team meetings are open for interested parties to observe and time is available to provide comments and ideas.

Bonanza Valley GWMA Project Advisory Team Meeting

Commissioner Tom Landwehr is planning to attend the next Bonanza Valley GWMA Project Advisory Team Meeting. The meeting is open to the public with the following details:

October 1, 2015

9:00 a.m. to Noon

American Legion Club

770 W State Highway 23

Paynesville, MN 56362

For more information see the Bonanza Valley GWMA webpage.

Straight River GWMA

In August the draft plan for the Straight River was released for public review. On August 25 the project team held two open houses to present the plan and review feedback. The plan is currently being revised based on comments received from the Project Advisory Team and stakeholders.

Check the project webpage for additional updates and the date of the next Project Advisory Team meeting.


We continue to seek your engagement during the implementation of the N&E Metro GWMA Plan. Opportunities for you to engage include:

  • N&E Metro GWMA Project Advisory Team meeting is tentatively planned for November 13, 2015. DNR Central Office, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, 8:30 – 11:30 am
  • The DNR is considering additions to the Project Advisory Team. Individuals interested in participating as members of the Project Advisory Team should contact Paul Putzier at paul.putzier@state.mn.us.
  • Individuals interested in receiving meeting notifications and project updates for the N&E Metro GWMA can sign up by following this link and entering their email address,
  • Provide your comments and ideas directly to the DNR. Direct your communications to paul.putzier@state.mn.us.
  • Project Updates Available - For information about the project, updates have been posted on the project webpage.



If you have questions about this project, please contact Paul Putzier, DNR project manager at 651-259-5692; paul.putzier@state.mn.us or visit the DNR’s GWMA webpage.