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 established a Groundwater Management Area (GWMA) in the North & East Metro. The boundary includes all of Ramsey and Washington counties, the southern portion of Anoka County, and a portion of Hennepin County. The GWMA planning process produced a plan to guide our actions in the area. Formal designation of the GWMA was completed this past winter when the Commissioner of the DNR approved the plan, thereby putting this GWMA in the implementation phase. The approved plan provides a framework within which DNR will work with water users such as municipalities to promote conservation, protect surface waters and water quality, improve the groundwater appropriations permitting process, and resolve any conflicts that might arise among users.

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


The DNR formed a Project Advisory Team (PAT) to provide advice and feedback during the beginning of the GWMA planning process.  The PAT included citizens representing cities, permitted users, private businesses, conservation districts, and other state and local agencies. The Project Advisory Team met regularly from October 2012 through May of 2015.  Meetings were open to the public.  Guests attending were encouraged to participate in the meetings.

Many members of the advisory team for the implementation phase of the groundwater management area also served as members of the Project Advisory Team that put together the plan, but there are new members as well. The Advisory Team consists of 23 people, mostly representatives of large water appropriators, including cities and industrial users, as well as counties, watershed districts, private associations, and other governmental agencies. This team will provide ongoing insights to the DNR as it implements a five-year plan.


The newly formed advisory team met for the first time in late May 2016 to continue discussion on the implementation of the GWMA Plan and to hear updates on efforts by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and others to sustainably manage groundwater in the north and east metro area.

Other DNR staff who will be involved with implementation of the plan were introduced. They include:

·         District appropriations hydrologist Joe Richter, who handles permits and works with local government on water supply planning;

·         Mary Coburn, who is reviewing well records and working to assure that all groundwater appropriations have required permits;

·         Area hydrologists Kate Drewry and Jen Sorenson, and support hydrologist Jason Spiegel.

Jason Moeckel, a section manager for DNR’s division of Ecological and Water Resources, gave a brief update on legislative actions related to groundwater, then provided an overview of DNR’s “Thresholds Report,” an effort to more clearly define when groundwater appropriations may present unacceptable risks of damage to streams, lakes and wetlands. The evidence suggests that exceeding a 10 percent reduction in August base stream flows (when conditions usually are driest), would likely cause unacceptable impacts. The challenge is to translate that sustainability threshold into an amount of water that can be pumped before impacts occur. DNR is developing a groundwater model that will be used to inform permitting decisions in the Little Rock Creek watershed near Rice, MN.  A similar approach could be used in the N&E Metro GWMA.

DNR water policy consultant Suzanne Rhees provided information about state efforts to encourage use of stormwater in lieu of groundwater by waiving annual water use fees. She also mentioned that the Department of Health is expected to deliver a report to the legislature next year regarding potential for re-use of gray water.

DNR water conservation specialist Carmelita Nelson reported that all 13 municipalities in the White Bear Lake area are developing conservation strategies that will be included in their water supply plans, which are due to be updated by the end of the year.  The cities are jointly aiming to reduce water use by about 1 billion gallons per year, with each city reducing consumption by at least 10 percent.

DNR hydrologist Joe Richter updated the group on permit activity within the area over the preceding six months. From November 2015 to May 2016, 42 permit actions took place. More than half of those were temporary permits for activities such as construction dewatering. Eight new permits were issued, and eight exiting permits were amended.

Mary Coburn, another DNR hydrologist, reported on efforts to assure that all appropriations are properly permitted. Contacts have been made with feedlot operators to make sure they understand and are in compliance with requirements. Coburn also has been undertaking a review of well records, and has found that many wells listed as active no longer are being used or have been sealed.

Following a short break, the team broke into small groups to discuss groundwater management issues in light of the plan and its implementation. Among concerns reported back to the larger group were recommendations that greater efforts were needed around education about groundwater and conservation.


The next meeting of the N&E Metro Project Advisory Team is scheduled for Friday, November 18, 2016.  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.


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

·         Project Advisory Team meeting is scheduled for November 18, 2016. DNR Central Office, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, 8:30 – 11:30 am

·         Individuals interested in receiving meeting notifications and project updates for the N&E Metro Pilot 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 NEMetroGWMA.DNR@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 project webpage.