Worse, the aquifer can be drawn down faster than it can recharge, by a totally unsustainable drawing rate, regardless of rates of local depletion. This is the worry. The wells running dry. The wetlands running dry. The trees dying back. Strib on Sat. Mar. 6, this link, has most recently reported, as excerpted:
Water crisis looms in Anoka County
Metro pumping for the growing demand endangers shallow lakes and private wells in the county.
By MARIA ELENA BACA, Star Tribune update: Mar. 6, 2010 - 11:30 PM
If Metropolitan Council population projections come true, increased water use in urban parts of the metro area will lead to significantly lowered aquifer levels, to the detriment of lakes, ponds and even some shallower private wells.
[Jamie] Schurbon, a water resource specialist with the Anoka Conservation District, hopes information being gathered now will give water a more prominent place at the table as development resumes in the county after being interrupted by the recession. The Met Council recently completed a Master Water Supply Plan and an Anoka County Geologic Atlas is in the works.
Tapping this information could prevent the problems seen in other parts of the country, including Atlanta, where stress on aquifers has led to annual water crises.
Consider this: The Met Council projects that the population of Blaine, Anoka County's fastest-growing city, will increase from 60,324 this year to 96,112 in 2050. During the same period, the water demand will increase from 2.9 billion gallons a year to 4.6 billion. In the city of Ramsey, the population is projected to grow from 11,683 to 59,240, and water demand from 792 million to 3.5 billion gallons a year.
"Water is being sucked out from beneath people's feet, [by] the wells in the more densely populated areas," Schurbon said. "Will water supply become the limiting factor for development? It's unheard of. But 100 years from now?"
First of all, lakes are distributed all over the state; development is not. And the Anoka sand plain presents special challenges.
Much of the region is fed by aquifers that generally flow north to south beneath the sand plain.
"Most of the lakes and wetlands in Anoka County are an expression of the water table," Schurbon said. "They are part of the water table that you can see."
In the coming years, pumping in the southern, more densely populated end will put a strain on the region, which will become apparent as more surface water features shrink or even disappear. That's already happening. On Bunker Lake and Coon Lake, for instance, lakefront property owners last year had docks 75 feet from the water's edge.
And the impervious surfaces that come with development -- blacktop, roofs -- mean storm water goes not to the aquifer, but through the sewers and into the Mississippi River.
That's also how drought and river flooding can co-exist, Schurbon said.
Ramsey, in the northwest corner of the county, has already started thinking about how to supplement the wells that tap into one of the aquifers, after a warning from the state early in the decade that aquifers couldn't support the eight wells needed for the city's growth plans, said Ramsey Public Works Director Brian Olson.
In Blaine, Public Services Manager Robert Therres says that while water always is a consideration, it would be good to have additional information to guide future development decisions.
Cities already work with the state and with their local watershed districts, Therres noted. There may be more collaboration in their futures.
"It's a regional issue," Schurbon said.
Now, the market has quelled things long enough that sane planning, resource related, with a view to limits and slow rates rather than "Smart Growth" as the Mondale son throbbed heartily while at the helm before Peter Bell took the post as the GOP took over the executive branch from Ventura - whose appointments in retrospect were, flawed is a kind word.
Walkable community hype, the thought that Met Council had two purposes only, filling the pipes to Pigs Eye and getting those connect fees to amortize Pigs Eye debt loads, and then planning transit where packed like sardines instead of independent people, the routes could be shorter and the density per bus mile would also be increased as density per acre in growth was concentrated. Myopic. Sure. But now there is time to undo the mischief, before the next development frenzy -- before the wells run dry. Before the Mississippi again is subject to record drought low levels as were experienced in the 1980's. We can hope it will be smart this go around, even with it being Met Council, so that the odds are against smartness (except as a word used in the growth-related advertising phrasing).
THE DFL CANDIDATES SPEAK.
This is the part you've all been waiting for. I sent a blanket email to the five SD 48 candidates, two GOP, three DFL, and the DFL candidates responded. Don't expect detailed solutions but expect an awareness of the problem that you'd want, in sending someone to the State Senate to deal with resource related and resource limited issues.
There was an earlier ABC Newspaper article along the same lines, and it was the basis for phrasing the question I emailed:
The question is simple - start with the article:
With water availability a question as to growth projections and capacity, and with Metropolitan Council's history of over estimating growth levels; and with part of the district outside of Met Council jurisdiction; what key thoughts do you have - say 200 words or less if you feel you even need that much - about growth management and allocation of water resources if water is a limiting resource as the article suggests. If you contend the article is incorrect, please in suggesting alternatives, if any, consider drought years. Failure to do so would be error, and if you care in responding, you can analogize the situation to where growth has happened beyond the market's current capacity to sustain it; and now there is this parallel resource limitation dimension. It's a request in an open-ended way, for whatever response you feel appropriate. But the issue of growth and its cogent management, to avoid foreclosure woes and over-supply as market harms being a parallel but separate dimension to whether natural resources limit things and in responding, if you have any grand scheme ideas on how to manage growth, including restraint beyond recent experience as an option, please feel free to take the question in such a direction. My only request is that it not be ignored that the posing of the question focuses upon a question of domestic water availability in a district where a large part of the households rely upon private domestic wells which might arguably be in danger of being run dry if the water resources are not properly handled.
With water availability a question as to growth projections and capacity, and with Metropolitan Council's history of over estimating growth levels; and with part of the district outside of Met Council jurisdiction; what key thoughts do you have - say 200 words or less if you feel you even need that much - about growth management and allocation of water resources if water is a limiting resource as the article suggests. If you contend the article is incorrect, please in suggesting alternatives, if any, consider drought years. Failure to do so would be error, and if you care in responding, you can analogize the situation to where growth has happened beyond the market's current capacity to sustain it; and now there is this parallel resource limitation dimension.
It's a request in an open-ended way, for whatever response you feel appropriate. But the issue of growth and its cogent management, to avoid foreclosure woes and over-supply as market harms being a parallel but separate dimension to whether natural resources limit things and in responding, if you have any grand scheme ideas on how to manage growth, including restraint beyond recent experience as an option, please feel free to take the question in such a direction. My only request is that it not be ignored that the posing of the question focuses upon a question of domestic water availability in a district where a large part of the households rely upon private domestic wells which might arguably be in danger of being run dry if the water resources are not properly handled.
Laurie Olmon, a member of the City of Nowthen city council, was the first to reply:
The water debate and its supporting data came to my attention during the finalization of our comprehensive plan for the City of Nowthen.
First of all, if every city along the Mississippi here in Minnesota started pulling water from the river think of the damage that would do to our neighbors to the south. I do not think we have that right. Second, as far as tips, I see nothing in MET Council’s webpage regarding the recycling of grey water for the use of irrigation, toilets, and other non-potable applications. Third, although cities are mandated to implement a Storm Water Protection Plan, this mandate is unfunded and so the cost of implementing and maintaining this mandate and others like it are very low on city budgets. Last, there needs to be an overhaul of the MET Council’s objectives, procedures, and processes. It needs to start working with cities to make sure that the character, history, traditions, and community are held intact. I believe that a city's growth management should be largely left up to them with guidance from others like the MET Council, LMC, etc.
Mike Starr, who has run before as DFL candidate for the SD 48 seat, responded next. Mike said:
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the article in the Anoka Union paper.
Wars have been fought and people have died because of "water rights" I do not expect any wars in the near future yet water has to be a concern for individuals and all city developments. SD 48 has both city water usage and many privet wells to draw from.
I encourage conversation of water use in all areas. The county (Anoka) has information and any Google search will outline water conversation efforts. We all have to develop a "habit" to conserve water. What I liked about the article in the Anoka Union paper is that city, county, and state organizations are actively talking about it. They are looking into the future and are trying to get a handle on how much water do we have and where can we go to get more of it, i.e. the Mississippi River. Cities should look at all future developments and business into their area and have an idea on how much water will be used if and when the development is approved..
Just last week a city in MN turned down a business because of the amount of water it will use on a daily basis. Ethanol plants are known to use a vast amount of water for every gallon of gas produced. Many cities have water restrictions in the summer months with enforcement if too much water is used or the home owner is watering on the wrong day.
In the end encouragement for water conservation from home owners and businesses owners is the foundation to keep water flowing for all to use. And I believe cities are doing what they can by looking into the future and are making decisions to help keep water usage under control.
The third DFL candidate, Peter Perovich, who like Olmon is seeking the SD 48 seat for the first time this election, responded:
Balancing Development with Environmental Protection
The ongoing availability of adequate water for our communities is only one factor behind the very real need to embrace sustainable development. Our natural resources are limited and the quality of our air, ground, and water resources further threatened if we do not require more responsible use. When it comes to water shortages specifically, we need more factual information on future threats to local communities and business development. This is not a new issue—water shortages and the politics of water have been international concerns for decades. We have not historically deemed them a major threat in our region because of abundant lakes and rivers; but the Metropolitan Council’s water supply study and scenarios in other states suggest we cannot afford to take water for granted. The issue requires more discussion and additional studies are essential. I am especially interested in capturing information that will give greater insight into how we can pace development to protect the environment, but without hindering economic growth, which is essential to the vitality of our communications and job creation.
I would like Minnesota to invest in greater monitoring of water quantity so that we have better information for identifying trends and anomalies. We also need to reduce water consumption and tax credits would seem reasonable for significant investments in homes or businesses. I would support legislation mandating more green spaces in our communities because they contribute to water conservation as well as better air quality. And I would support more stringent requirements in the environmental assessments required before approval of developments to address water resources
Not sure how or why you tie the foreclosure issue into this.
I think it was a sound response from each of the candidates. Perovich raised a point, I was using the bubble market crashing with foreclosure fallout as an example of growth without sufficient attention to downside possibilities, to limits and ways that planning might exceed some limiting capacity, in that case credit drying up, instead of the wells. It was solely an analogy. There is no tie-in beyond that concept of untrammeled planning and growth being dangerous.
I had difficulty trying to get the email to the address Mike Jungbauer listed with CFB. That's how I got email addresses. Although Mike did not reply, I had sent the email to another address I have for him, at the Landform consultancy, this link, where his title is Water Resources Manager - Planning & Urban Design. From work Landform contracted with Ramsey, for conceptualizing a larger water holding project at Town Center than the Feges folks earlier designed, the firm is concerned with gray water use for landscaping, etc., a point that Olmon raised. I expect Jungbauer's view on the water issue are in line with the three DFL people - recognizing a need to assure the facts are determined and understood by decision makers. And the river ebbs and flows, with 1987 - 88 levels around a third of normal capacity behind the Coon Rapids dam. With climate uncertainties there will be river drought levels again. As a greater tracking envelope is attained with the dam in place, we can expect the worse drought is in the future, not the past.
After an emailing error, not on my end of things, Mike Jungbauer joined the three DFL people, this statement:
As a professional water resource guy, and a top technology person on water recycle and reuse, I can say with 100% certainty that water never has to be an issue! We have the technology (40 years proven thus far) to recycle and reuse every bit of water on the system. We don't do this because of lack of knowledge and the fact that companies make a lot more money doing things the "old fashioned" way. Modern technology is cheaper and takes leas space.
I have been passionate about protecting our water resources since 1992, and will keep fighting to bring our state and country into the new water technology age until our precious water resources are safe.