North and East Metro GWMA Update

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minnesota department of natural resources

North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area Update

July 2022

The advisory group for the North and East Metro Groundwater Management Area (GWMA) met Friday, June 10, 2022 at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency lower level conference rooms in St. Paul and through the online meeting platform Webex. The majority of attendees joined via the online meeting platform.

The public meeting included updates on the White Bear Lake court case, the transient groundwater flow model developed for the White Bear Lake area, water conservation and efficiency improvements by public water suppliers in the area, a review of the Metropolitan Council Northeast Metro Feasibility Study from 2014, and the White Bear Lake augmentation report from 2016.

Jason Moeckel, Inventory, Monitoring and Analysis Section Manager with the DNR opened the meeting reflecting on how the DNR and other water-related agencies have been working on groundwater management issues in the northeast metro for a number of years. Moeckel mentioned how there are a number of others involved in a sustainable water supply for this part of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, including the legislature, the courts and local governments.

Ramsey County District Court order

Randall Doneen, Manager of the Conservation and Assistance Section at the DNR, reviewed the key elements of the Ramsey County District Court order and outlined the primary requirements for the DNR to implement, including:

  • The DNR is prohibited from issuing new groundwater appropriation permits or increases within five miles unless certain conditions are met;
  • A residential irrigation ban is in effect when White Bear Lake water levels drop to 923.5 feet;
  • Public water suppliers must implement a residential goal of 75 gallons per person per day and a total of 90 gallons per person per day;
  • Public water suppliers must develop a contingency plan to shift their water source from groundwater to surface water; and
  • The DNR is required to set a collective annual withdrawal limit for White Bear Lake and adjust permits accordingly.

Doneen discussed the uncertainly around the collective annual withdrawal limit for the lake and described how the DNR needs to work on continuing to maintain White Bear Lake water levels above the protective elevation of 922 feet established by the DNR in December 2016. Without changes to the Court order, the DNR will not be able to authorize any additional groundwater use within five miles of White Bear Lake.

The DNR recognizes the need to continue working toward a resolution to sustainably manage groundwater for municipalities, businesses, recreational users, and the natural resources that depend on that same water in the GWMA.

Communities and water users will need to develop a plan to address the water supply management challenges in the northeast metro area, in order to reduce stress on water levels of White Bear Lake and maintain the protective elevation while also continuing to provide drinking water to residents, businesses and visitors.

Transient groundwater flow model analysis

Moeckel presented a recent analysis using the transient groundwater flow model to determine how to implement the collective annual withdrawal limit as required by the court. The analysis indicates limiting total water use to the equivalent of about 55 gallons per person per day. This limitation would maintain lake levels near or above 922 feet through the model time period. Moeckel explained the limitation would only provide water for first priority uses for domestic supplies, such as drinking, cooking and cleaning. Other uses of water for schools, hospitals, medical offices and other commercial entities would not meet the definition of domestic supplies as outlined in the state water use priorities. Any increases in domestic use or allowing lower priority water use (i.e., commercial, industrial, agricultural, institutional, etc.) in excess of 55 gallons per person per day would not maintain lake levels above 922 feet.

Water conservation and efficiency accomplishments

Dan Miller, project manager for the groundwater management area, provided an update about water conservation and efficiency accomplishments by municipal public water suppliers in the North and East Metro GWMA. Many public water suppliers continue to work on distribution system leak detection as a method to conserve drinking water. For example, White Bear Township reported a little over five million gallons of water saved through a leak detection identification and repair program in calendar year 2021. The City of Oakdale reported nearly one million gallons of water saved through the installation of irrigation meters, and the City of Lino Lakes says they saved nearly one million gallons of water through the distribution of 100 single-family water efficient lawn and landscape irrigation controllers.

Met Council northeast metro water supply feasibility study

Ali Elhassan, manager of the water supply planning group at Metropolitan Council, provided a review of the 2014 northeast metro water supply feasibility study. This study is a planning document for communities and interested parties to consider for alternative supplies in the northeast metro of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. A number of local governments were involved and the focus was on the feasibility of engineering such a project. A number of questions were asked, including: can we build it, what would it take to accomplish and how much would it cost? Three options were developed for communities to consider:

  • A connection to the St. Paul Regional Water Services system with three points of connection;
  • Constructing a new surface water treatment facility for northeast metro communities; and/or
  • Lake augmentation of White Bear Lake with additional DNR evaluation and analysis.

Additional service to other communities other than the six communities closest to the St. Paul Regional Water Services distribution system would require extensive large-scale infrastructure development. More details about the Metropolitan Council 2014 northeast metro water supply feasibility study can be reviewed on their website.

White Bear Lake augmentation feasibility report

To conclude the meeting, Jason Moeckel shared a review of the White Bear Lake Augmentation Feasibility Report from 2016. The report focused on two approaches to pump water into White Bear Lake from two different surface water sources. Moeckel pointed out that both potential sources could provide the water needed, but would need to implement strategies to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species into White Bear Lake and fulfill other state regulations for augmenting a surface water. He shared additional specifics about the two approaches, including estimated costs in 2015 dollars and unknown potential cost impacts such as water quality treatment needed, distribution system alignments, and subsurface conditions of the proposed route. The full report can be reviewed on the DNR website.

At the end of the meeting, the DNR fielded questions and comments from attendees online and in the conference room of the MPCA office in St. Paul.

Presentations provided during the June 2022 advisory group meeting can be reviewed from the GWMA website.

More information on the North and East 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.