DNR Update for the N&E Metro GWMA Project

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DNR Update for the N&E Metro GWMA Project

North & East Metro Groundwater Management Area Advisory Team Meeting – 11/10/16

The advisory group for the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area met for its second semi-annual meeting on November 10, 2016, at DNR headquarters in St. Paul. The group heard updates on a variety of topics and issues related to the sustainable management of groundwater, including:


The North & East Metro Groundwater Management Area advisory team was established to provide ongoing insights to the DNR as it implements a five-year plan approved in November 2015. The 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. The plan covers all of Ramsey and Washington counties and portions of Anoka and Hennepin counties.


Permit activities

DNR district appropriations hydrologist Joe Richter updated the group on permit activity within the area over the preceding six months, from May 1 to Nov. 1. A total of 61 DNR water appropriation permit actions took place during that period. Roughly two-thirds were permits for temporary appropriations. Of the 11 new individual permits, seven were the result of compliance efforts by DNR, representing instances in which appropriations had been occurring for some time without needed permits.


Stormwater general permit

Julie Ekman, DNR conservation assistance and regulation section manager, provided an update on DNR efforts to facilitate the reuse of stormwater for purposes such as irrigation. By doing that, communities can better manage runoff, while also reducing demands for groundwater. A DNR general permit, which reduces barriers to using stormwater and streamlines the permitting process, has been drafted by DNR and is out for review through the end of November.



Greg Kruse, DNR water monitoring and surveys unit supervisor, summarized efforts to enhance data collection in the area. Currently, water levels are monitored on 143 lakes within the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area. A network of 62 observation wells, 9 of them installed since 2013, provides information on groundwater levels; plans call for another 14 to come online in the next year. DNR also has installed a weather station in the White Bear Lake area to gather climatological information. The agency will continue to work with other organizations to collect data, and to monitor lakes, streams and wetlands.



DNR has been legislatively directed to solicit three design-build proposals for a water level augmentation system to address water level concerns on White Bear Lake by pumping in water from East Vadnais Lake. Jason Moeckel, Inventory, Monitoring and Analysis Section Manager for DNR’s division of Ecological and Water Resources, told the group that the agency has issued a request for proposals (RFP). The first phase of the RFP, which includes statements of qualifications, closes in early December. Three firms that best meet qualifications criteria will be selected to submit full proposals that would likely be expected by the end of March 2017.


Protective elevation

As part of efforts to resolve litigation over water levels on White Bear Lake, DNR agreed to set a protective elevation for the lake, a level that would trigger cessation of nonessential water uses should water in the lake fall below that elevation. The agency has been analyzing historical data for lake levels, aquatic vegetation, recreational uses and other factors to develop the protective elevation. Staff have had conversations with municipal water suppliers within two miles of the lake to assess how implementation of a protective elevation would impact their communities and their ability to enforce actions such as a watering ban that could go on for years at a time. The DNR is awaiting completion of the second part of the USGS’ study (described in the next paragraph). It is hoped that the model will enable an evaluation of groundwater pumping and impacts on lake levels.


USGS study

Jim Stark, executive director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Minnesota Water Science Center, summarized two projects to better understand interactions between groundwater and surface water in the north and east metro area. The first project, which has been completed and a report posted online, looked at 96 lakes, including White Bear, and examined the different factors that affect water levels on them, including the lake outlet type, how urbanized the area around a lake is, its topographic setting, and properties of its lakebed. The second USGS project entails development of a highly complex model that is expected to provide more detailed answers about the effects that groundwater appropriations may have on surface waters so that officials can better evaluate proposals such augmentation, modifying water supplies, etc. The model is being reviewed and refined, with an expected release date of mid-January 2017.


Water conservation efforts in Shoreview

Mark Maloney, a member of the advisory group and public works director for City of Shoreview, offered insights from that city’s efforts to encourage domestic water conservation. The city received a state grant to test the premise that people might be more conscientious about conserving water if they had more timely information on their use. Rather than waiting for a quarterly water bill, the city obtained remote readers that could be placed in a visible location such as on a refrigerator to provide real-time usage information. As the city was getting ready to roll out its “Know Your Flow” program for 400 residents, they learned about software that could provide usage comparisons to indicate whether a household was consuming more or less water than others. The “WaterSmart” program was rolled out citywide in August, and it will be evaluated over the next three years.


Wrap-up and next steps

Following the presentations, advisory group members provided feedback on which elements of the groundwater management area plan might be further emphasized or accelerated as part of Gov. Dayton’s “Year of Water Action.” They also suggested that future advisory group meetings spend more time focusing on aquifer recharge issues.

The North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area advisory team will meet again in about six months.


Opportunities for you to engage

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

Upcoming Project Advisory Team meetings.  Date, time, and location to be determined.

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 NEMetroGWMA.DNR@state.mn.us.

Project Updates Available - For information about the project, updates have been posted on the project webpage.

Contact information

If you have questions about this project, please contact Carmelita Nelson, DNR project manager at 651-259-5034; Carmelita.nelson@state.mn.us or visit the project webpage.