North & East Metro GWMA Update

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minnesota department of natural resources

North & East Metro Groundwater Management Area Update

July 10, 2020

The advisory group for the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area (GWMA) met for the first of its semi-annual meetings for 2020 on May 29, through an online meeting format. The agenda included:

  • updates on the implementation of the North and East Metro GWMA plan;
  • the Governor’s Executive Orders as they relate to water-related responsibilities for the DNR;
  • where things stand with the 3M settlement and the conceptual drinking water supply planning;
  • the transient groundwater flow model, particularly with population projections through 2040;
  • a look at water conservation reporting by public water suppliers in the North and East Metro GWMA; and
  • a presentation by advisory team member Kristin Seaman on Woodbury’s water conservation project to retrofit residential irrigation systems with smart timers and controllers.

Plan implementation update

DNR project manager Dan Miller started the meeting by highlighting progress on implementation of the North and East Metro GWMA plan. Miller described activities the DNR has started or completed to meet the plan’s five objectives. Handouts summarizing these accomplishments over the last six months are available on the project web page.

Governor's executive orders and DNR water-related responsibilities

Randall Doneen, manager of the Conservation Assistance and Regulations Section for the DNR, provided a brief update on the Governor’s Executive Orders as it relates to the responsibilities of the DNR. Water resource related permitting activities have continued using remote work technology. Flexibility has been provided for water use reporting and water use fee payment, when needed. Permits have not been canceled for failure to report and pay fees, but rather additional time is being given when needed.

Most DNR staff have been working remotely during the Governor’s Stay-At-Home Order and the subsequent Stay-Safe Order. The Stay-Safe Order allows the DNR to begin to resume some field activities. DNR leadership is working to safely move more staff back out into the field and into offices, when ready. This will be a phased approach and will likely take several weeks.

Staff continue to respond to floods, emergency dam inspections and repairs, and well interference complaints. Work related to the North and East Metro GWMA continues with ongoing data analysis and groundwater modeling; permit management and water supply planning; and project team meetings and public engagement opportunities.

3M settlement in the east metro area

John Seaberg, a groundwater specialist with the DNR, provided an overview and update on the project working on the 3M Company’s settlement with the state pertaining to groundwater contamination. Seaberg is the agency’s technical lead on the project.

To implement the settlement agreement and guide expenditure of the funds, the DNR and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), as co-trustees, have established two working groups and three technical sub-groups composed of citizens, local government officials and other stakeholders. Throughout the entire process, the co-trustees have been working collaboratively with the impacted communities to ensure that any solutions chosen for water supply will meet their needs. Working in close collaboration with these communities, the working groups, and the technical sub-group on drinking water, the co-trustees have begun work to develop plans for providing clean, sustainable drinking water for all east metro communities. They have identified 18 water supply scenarios for the east metro area comprised of several options for further consideration. These options include treatment using granular activated carbon or ion exchange, and potentially new sources of water (surface water and/or groundwater). Seaberg described key considerations for evaluating these options including a health index threshold for treatment, long-term costs, and sustainability and resilience of the supply source.

A hydraulic supply system model and a groundwater flow model are the two primary tools used to evaluate the conceptual drinking water supply plan scenarios. The hydraulic supply model is used to evaluate the feasibility of implementing the systems proposed for the different scenarios, and the groundwater flow model is applied to evaluate the potential for groundwater to provide enough water for the communities and whether any treatment will be necessary.

The workgroup will next work on refining scenarios and then recommend good, better and best scenarios. This effort will consider compliance with the settlement agreement, feedback from multiple parties, including impacted communities, consultation with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), and the groundwater modeling results.

Additional meetings will be held throughout the rest of this year with a final conceptual drinking water supply plan likely completed in 2021.

More information on the 3M settlement project can be found at:

2040 projected water demand scenario

Glen Champion, DNR hydrologist, presented information on how the anticipated change in groundwater use due to projected population growth may influence water levels of White Bear Lake. Champion also reviewed previous model analyses, described how the new model scenarios provide information for the 3M east metro settlement area, and how model analyses could help evaluate other scenarios to support future planning.

Using the transient groundwater model created and refined for the north and east metro area, hydrologists examined a scenario based on projected water use for the year 2040 to see what impacts that would have on the water level of White Bear Lake. The modeling scenario took into account all permitted groundwater uses within five miles of the lake, including municipal wells, plus a few beyond the Court established boundary. Under that scenario, the model showed that water levels of White Bear Lake would closely parallel levels observed during the years from 2002 to 2018, with times of high water and times where it was lower.

The transient groundwater flow model will continue to inform work on the 3M settlement project in the east metro area as well as be used for additional scenarios in the area of White Bear Lake.

Water conservation reporting summaries

Water conservation specialist Carmelita Nelson shared information about water conservation and efficiency reporting by communities in the North and East Metro GWMA. Nelson also described how these communities compared to the statewide averages for water conservation and efficiency measures.

All municipal/public water suppliers are encouraged to submit water conservation and efficiency activities in the DNR Water Conservation and Reporting System. This web-based reporting system provides information to public water suppliers about the impact of their efforts, encourages best practices and allows them to compare their strategies to others throughout the state.

Nelson explained that water loss in a public water supply distribution system usually consists of leaks from pipes, valves and related equipment in the distribution system. Municipal/public water suppliers in the North and East Metro GWMA have a total unaccounted for water loss of 12% (viewing the public water suppliers as one large utility). The statewide goal is 10%. The aggregate residential gallons per capita per day (GPCD) in the Northeast Metro GWMA was 42. The statewide goal is 75 GPCD and so as a group, communities in the GWMA are doing very well.

Nelson shared additional results from the DNR Water Conservation and Reporting System including non-residential GPCD, total gallons per capita per day, and total daily peaking factor. Total daily peaking factor is a ratio of maximum water use consumed in one day as compared to the average water use consumed in one day. The communities in the GWMA were below the goal of 2.6 and were at 1.89. Precipitation typically influences the day of maximum water use by a community since it usually occurs in the summer months of July or August.

Nelson finished her presentation highlighting a number of accomplishments by communities in the North and East Metro GWMA. Here are a few:

  • Cottage Grove saved 1.8 million gallons by selling 200 smart irrigation controllers for residential homes.
  • Newport has saved water through a successful clothes washer rebate program.
  • Through a water audit, the city of St. Paul saved 98 million gallons of water by fixings leaks in their distribution system in 2019.

City of Woodbury irrigation efficiency project

For the final presentation during the meeting, advisory team member, Kristin Seaman shared information about the city of Woodbury’s irrigation efficiency project, which placed residential smart irrigation controllers in homes throughout the city.

Seaman said the city had a number of goals for this effort including:

  • maintaining local control of the water utility;
  • providing sustainable, reliable, and high quality potable water; and
  • protecting environmental assets.

The city initiated a number of strategic initiatives beginning in 2015 to work on water use efficiencies throughout the city. The results of this work lead to the city to work on city-owned irrigation systems, residential and commercial irrigation pilot programs, host MnTAP interns, and implement new policy and rate changes.

The residential irrigation project sold discounted controllers to residential homeowners, who saved on average 30,000 gallons per year per household. The city used social media, newsletters, and how-to videos to inform and provide assistance to residents.

Seaman summarized her presentation with totals from the residential smart irrigation controller water efficiency program: from 2016 through 2019 2,100 irrigation controllers has saved an estimated 630 million gallons over that same time period.

Presentation slides from the meeting can be reviewed from the North and East Metro GWMA project web page.

Next meeting

The North and East Metro GWMA advisory team will likely next meet in November 2020. Additional meeting details will be sent out to everyone signed up to receive North & East Metro GWMA email updates. You can subscribe here:

More information on the N & E Metro GWMA

Project web page:

Dan Miller, Project Manager, Division of Ecological and Water Resources, DNR

Phone: 651-259-5731


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 the DNR will work with water users to ensure that groundwater supplies remain adequate to meet human needs, while protecting lakes, streams and wetlands. The plan covers all of Ramsey and Washington Counties, along with portions of Anoka and Hennepin.