Sunday, February 24, 2013

Minnesota draining its supplies of water

Josephine Marcotty in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: ...Minnesotans have always prided themselves on their more than 10,000 lakes, great rivers and the deep underground reservoirs that supply three-fourths of the state’s residents with naturally clean drinking water. But many regions in the state have reached the point where people are using water — and then sending it downstream — faster than the rain and snow can replenish it.

Last year, Minnesotans used a record amount of water, fueling a rising number of conflicts from the Iron Range to Pipestone. Now state regulators, who have never said no to a water permit, for the first time are planning to experiment with more stringent rules that will require some local communities to allocate scarce water.

“It’s scary,” said Dennis Healy, who runs the Pipestone Rural Water System in southwest Minnesota. “The time is coming that there is going to have to be some rationing.”

In the short term, that means farmers and businesses may have to share water with competitors, or even leave the state. Eventually, homeowners may face higher water bills and routine watering bans.The prolonged drought that scorched Minnesota last summer is not to blame, but it provides a glimpse into how climate change, with its weather extremes, could make matters even worse. From now on droughts may be more severe. And then when it rains, it often rains so hard that much of the water runs off the land before it can soak into the ground.

In Minnesota, how the rain falls and the snow melts is crucial because virtually all the state’s water comes from the sky. Over the centuries, water accumulated below the surface, slowly seeping into the ground and the aquifers that store many billions of gallons between grains of sand and fissures in the rock. Today that groundwater and the aquifers supply most of the homes, ethanol plants, millions of irrigated acres, swimming pools and golf courses across the state....

Pose Lake in Minnesota, shot by Reid Priedhorsky (R27182818)), Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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