Water restrictions expected as St. Croix Watershed moves into drought warning
Water-use restrictions are on the way for a nine-county portion of eastern Minnesota due to how dry conditions are.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Friday that the St. Croix Watershed has become the first watershed in the state to move into the “Drought Warning Response Phase,” which requires affected communities to implement water restrictions.
Anoka, Washington, Isanti, Chisago, Pine, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Carlton and Aitkin Counties are all at least partly in the St. Croix Watershed.
This week’s report from the U.S. Drought Monitor showed that more than 80% of the state is dealing with abnormally dry or drought conditions, and areas in a severe drought are expanding. This week also marked the first time this year that parts of Minnesota — including the Twin Cities metro area — moved into the extreme drought category.
While the St. Croix Watershed is the only watershed in the drought warning phase currently, 11 others are in the “Drought Watch Response Phase,” some of which have been there since last summer due to prolonged drought conditions.
As part of the state’s drought plan, the DNR says a watershed reaching the drought warning phase requires public water suppliers in that watershed to implement conservation measures aimed at reducing water consumption to 50% above January levels.
“At that point, municipalities [have to] start suspending some water permits and there’s going to be water restrictions,” Minnesota DNR climatologist Kenny Blumenfeld said about the drought warning.
According to the National Weather Service, as of Friday night, the St. Croix River in Stillwater was sitting at just more than 75-and-a-half feet and getting close to record low levels.
“It’s hard to believe because we just did boating and it said low water and I was surprised,” Sonja Faust, of Stillwater, said.
Faust spoke to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS next to her bountiful garden — she says the dry summer has been tough and has been on an every-other-day watering plan to not use too much water.
“Those things are important to me so I’ll be careful,” Faust said about her water use while entering the drought warning.
But with the dry conditions affecting so much of the state, officials say all Minnesotans should be thinking about reducing water usage where possible.
“Even in a state with 10,000 lakes — actually, 11,842 of at least 10 acres in size — it is important for all residents to have a water conservation mindset,” Blumenfeld said. “It is important for all water users to look at how much water they’re using and commit to using less, not just during drought but on an ongoing basis.”
The DNR notes that drought conditions generally require more irrigation for crops, lawns and athletic fields, which puts more strain on the state’s water resources.
The agency has resources for water conservation on its website, which also notes that Minnesota was ranked 10th nationally last year by the Alliance for Water Efficiency.