Little Rock Creek Sustainable Groundwater Use Planning Project Update

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Little Rock Creek Sustainable Groundwater Use Planning Project

June 2016 Project Update

Convening for the third time as the Little Rock Creek Sustainable Groundwater Planning Project Advisory Team, a group of about two dozen residents of Morrison and Benton County met with staff from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on April 13 to continue learning about groundwater resources in the area as they work toward a plan that will guide DNR groundwater management in the area for the next five years.

The Project Advisory Team discussed:

  • A review of the planning process and the role of the project advisory team;
  • An overview of the framework for and components of the plan that will be developed through this process;
  • An overview of results from several aquifer tests conducted recently in the area;
  • A description of the groundwater flow model being developed to evaluate the cumulative and individual impacts from pumping.

The process, the plan and the team

DNR Little Rock Creek project manager Mark Hauck explained that the advisory team’s role is to provide input and feedback as the DNR develops a plan that will guide the agency’s management of groundwater over the next five years. That plan, grounded in state laws, will aim at ensuring that groundwater can continue to be used now and in the future in ways that:

  • Don’t degrade water quality;
  • Comply with conservation standards;
  • Don’t result in unresolved conflicts among users;
  • Don’t negatively impact aquifers, ecosystems or surface waters.

The timeline for the planning process calls for a draft plan to be developed for public review by this fall, with any subsequent revisions incorporated into a semi-final plan for review and approval by DNR’s commissioner by the end of the year. One component of the plan that is already being implemented is DNR’s efforts to collect and analyze more data related to groundwater use and related impacts.

Aquifer tests and the groundwater flow model

Steve Thompson, supervisor of DNR’s hydrogeology unit, presented the results of four aquifer tests recently completed in the Little Rock Creek area. In an aquifer test, water is pumped from one well, while water levels in other wells are observed to determine the degree of impact. These tests provide information that can:

  • Help predict the effects of groundwater withdrawals on streams, lakes and wetlands;
  • Indicate how different aquifers may be connected with each other;
  • Be used in groundwater modeling efforts and
  • Be used in making decisions about water appropriation permits.

The aquifer tests showed that pumping from the deep, buried aquifers can also draw water from the shallow aquifer and Little Rock Creek. The tests also showed that the effect of pumping from one irrigation well can extend to other wells, though the extent of impacts varies from well to well.

Such tests provide information that will inform the computerized groundwater flow model that will be used to help determine individual and cumulative impacts resulting from groundwater appropriations in the Little Rock Creek Area. The model will take into account factors such as the geological characteristics of aquifers, how aquifers are connected to surface waters, pumping rates, stream flows and recharge rates. It will be created by DNR in consultation with a technical advisory team that includes experts from universities, consulting firms and other government agencies. Thompson noted that at the first meeting of that team on April 7, members said the approach DNR was proposing and the data it had available should provide for a solid model.


After breaking into small groups, members of the project advisory team raised several concerns and questions including:

  • Is the proposed timeframe for developing a plan by the end of the year realistic?
  • Are economic impacts being adequately taken into account? 

 Next steps

Project advisory team members interested in a firsthand look at DNR monitoring activities were invited to join DNR staff in the field as they did their routine data collection of stream flow and groundwater levels on May 19. To accommodate spring field work schedules, the project advisory team will not meet again until June 22.

Contact Information

Direct questions about this project can be addressed to Mark Hauck, DNR project manager, at 320-223-7846 or .

To sign up for email updates and follow progress of the plan on the DNR’s project web page go to: .

For more information on groundwater management, visit link to MN DNR Groundwater Management