North and East Metro GWMA Update

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minnesota department of natural resources

North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area Update

September 2021

Please note: This update has been delayed for distribution due to staff attending to responsibilities related to the ongoing drought throughout the state.

The advisory team for the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area met in an online format on June 11, 2021. The agenda included:

  • A brief update on the status of the five-year plan for management of groundwater in the north and east metro area.
  • A summary of recent court proceedings.
  • An update on groundwater modeling and analysis.
  • Information on water conservation and efficiency efforts around the area.

Where we're at

DNR project manager Dan Miller started the meeting with a quick reflection on the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area Plan, which was approved in 2015 as a framework for DNR work on local groundwater issues through 2020. While 2020 may have come and gone, the plan will continue to guide the DNR’s approach to groundwater management in the face of issues including population growth, groundwater quality concerns, and interactions between groundwater and surface waters.

“The plan isn’t going to expire,” Miller said. “We’re going to continue meeting with all of you and the advisory team.”

Miller also drew the group’s attention to a number of informational resources available on the DNR website, including:

  • Advisory team meeting agendas.
  • A short report on water use permitting and water supply plan activity.
  • Summaries of water conservation efforts by municipalities around the north and east metro area.

White Bear Lake updates: litigation

Randall Doneen, manager of the Conservation Assistance and Regulation Section for the DNR, provided the team with a quick overview and update on the district court order related to White Bear Lake water levels and its effects on local water supplies. The DNR was sued in 2017 by a group of local homeowners who alleged that the water level of White Bear Lake had been falling because the agency issued permits for too much groundwater appropriation. The district court found in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered a number of measures to protect groundwater supplies, an order that was largely upheld in subsequent appeals. The measures included:

  • Prohibiting the DNR from issuing new permits for groundwater appropriation within five miles of White Bear Lake, and requiring all permits to include adequate data and analysis to determine their impacts on the lake.
  • Banning residential lawn watering when the lake reached 923.5 feet.
  • Establishing a per-capita target of 75 gallons per day (gpd) for residential water use and 90 gpd for total water use within the five-mile zone.
  • Requiring all public water suppliers to develop plans that would allow them to shift from groundwater to surface water.

The DNR subsequently amended all existing permits to make them consistent with the court order, but suspended the new permit requirements while 11 of the affected communities pursue contested case hearings, a process that could take up to a year.

White Bear Lake updates: technical information

Jason Moeckel, DNR Inventory Monitoring and Analysis Section manager, provided the advisory group with an update on the gathering and analysis of technical data related to groundwater use, lake levels and drinking water supplies. Much of the information the DNR is now using to plan for the future didn’t exist as recently as four years ago, he said.

“We’ve learned a lot, and we want to make sure we’re sharing that information with everybody,” Moeckel said. He noted that overall water use within area communities is on a downward trend, even in those municipalities that are growing. While the past 10 years have been wetter on average, there also have been dry spells, and the water level of White Bear Lake has fluctuated accordingly. Using the groundwater model developed for the White Bear Lake area, the DNR has looked at a variety of scenarios and has come to a number of conclusions:

  • Pumping does have an impact on the water level of White Bear Lake, with those wells closest to the lake having the greatest impact.
  • A residential irrigation ban will have little impact on water levels.
  • Changing the outlet level of White Bear Lake would have little effect on water levels.
  • Based on population projections for 2040, continued growth of communities in the area will affect water levels.
  • If several communities were able to switch to surface water or some other source for their water supply, it could have enough of an impact to achieve goals set by the court order.
  • The Mt. Simon aquifer does not present a good alternative for a water supply source, as it would have limited capacity and it would be expensive.

Moeckel identified several next steps in the ongoing effort to maintain water levels in White Bear Lake, comply with the district court order and identify sustainable water supplies in the north and east metro area:

  • Finalization of the east metro conceptual drinking water plan for those communities affected by the 2018 3M settlement with the State of Minnesota.
  • Contested case hearings for those communities that have requested them in relation to modifications to their groundwater appropriation permits.
  • Ongoing discussions around the possibility of regional solutions to water supplies.
  • Continued outreach and engagement.

Water conservation and efficiency trends

The DNR’s Randall Doneen wrapped up the advisory team meeting by highlighting some trends in terms of water conservation and efficiency measures.

  • Per capita water use has been declining, in terms of residential use as well as total community use. However, total use is still above the 90 gpd goal. Residential use is below the 75 gpd goal.
  • Results from several communities illustrate how leak detection can help communities conserve water and save money. St. Paul saved 166 million gallons of water and $1.7 million through leak detection efforts; Fridley saved 28 million gallons; White Bear Lake Twp. saved 21 million gallons.
  • Irrigation efficiencies are helping a number of communities conserve water. Cottage Grove saved 1.3 million gallons of water through installation of 146 "smart" lawn watering controllers. Hugo, Stillwater and Oakdale also realized water savings by means of "smart" lawn irrigation controllers.
  • Some communities are using ordinances and policies such as irrigation restrictions, and landscape and vegetation requirements to advance conservation.
  • Communities also are achieving water conservation by promoting efficient toilets and shower heads, as well as through the re-use of stormwater.

Following a short question and answer period, the meeting adjourned.

Next meeting

The North and East Metro GWMA advisory team will likely next meet in the fall of 2021. 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 will continue to guide the DNR’s approach to groundwater management in the north and east metro and provide 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.