Dakota County commissioners plan vote on water well drilling

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The Dakota County Board of Commissioners scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday ahead of a vote that would place a one-year moratorium on new industrial water well. 

A Minnesota company's plan fizzled out recently that called for 500 million gallons of water to be shipped on railcars to states in the southwest, according to Dakota County Commissioner Joe Atkins.

“We have water depletion and water quantity issues of our own anticipated over the next 10 to 15 years, so we want to make sure we have water available for our own residents (and) our own businesses before we start seeing proposals to ship hundreds of millions of gallons elsewhere," Atkins said. 

Atkins said he’s heard of other proposals in the works to move water out of the state. 

County commissioners will hold a virtual public meeting Tuesday at 9 a.m. on a proposed 365-day moratorium on new industrial wells that pump more than 10,000 gallons of water a day, or 1 million gallons a year from aquifers deep in the ground.

Dakota County residents use around 25 billion gallons of groundwater, with 14 billion gallons used for drinking water according to water officials.

"We do have projections that there could be a drawdown of groundwater in parts of the county of about up to 50 percent drawdown, so you'd have 50 percent less of the groundwater," said Valerie Grover, with Dakota County’s groundwater protection unit supervisor.

Grover said those are estimates are for down the road without large wells in place in communities that could experience high population growth.

That’s why Grover said a moratorium would give the county more options to study the issue and to plan.

"This is kind of a way for us to protect the groundwater right now as we try to find other ways to make sure that the groundwater is sustainable," Grover said.

"Everybody wants to understand how we can best use our resources," said Carrie Jennings, research and policy director with the Freshwater Society.

Jennings said the issue is also being debated in legislation at the capitol in St. Paul about the use of Minnesota water resources.

"One thing we notice in Dakota County is that surface pollution is going deeper, and it goes deeper more quickly," Jennings said. "If you're pumping harder on the aquifer at depth, you're just cycling the water through the system more quickly. That's another concern."

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to the company that originally proposed the water by rail plan but did not hear back. 

The proposal does not apply to existing water wells in Dakota County, nor any replacement of those wells.