New funding proposed to keep drinking water clean
Governor Mark Dayton is proposing a new funding structure to help ensure that Minnesota's growing economy has reliable supplies of high quality water. The proposal is expected to be introduced in the Legislature early this week.
Seventy-five percent of Minnesotans get their drinking water from groundwater, but some aquifers are on a long-term downward trend that is not sustainable.
The drought has raised the profile of chronic water problems around the state. At the current rate of use, surface water and groundwater supplies may be at risk. The state needs more reliable information on water sources and how they are being used.
The additional funding would increase the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) ability to obtain information on water supplies and water users' needs so local communities and the state make more informed decisions about water appropriations.
"As aquifers and other water supplies are drawn down, we need the best information in order to continue to provide high-quality water supplies," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. "This alone won't solve our water sustainability issues, but it is a good start."
Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said, "Minnesotans are blessed to have this valuable water resource. I believe the long-term benefit of better water monitoring will help farmers protect their initial investment, and ensure adequate water resources for future generations."
The funding proposal helps reverse a long-term decline in state general fund support for the DNR's water management programs. During the past 10 years, the DNR has experienced a 32 percent reduction in its general fund budget for water management activities, while water appropriation permit applications have increased by 67 percent.
The proposed funding increase would help the DNR collect and analyze groundwater supplies and the demands on those supplies and address sustainability concerns with new and existing water permits. The initiative would provide the means to increase compliance with water permit requirements and continues the development of a sophisticated electronic permitting system for water users.
The funding also would help advance groundwater management areas. These management areas are intended to bring all water users to the table to develop a plan and prioritize use of a limited resource where there is heavy water use and conflicts.
The plan changes the current fee structure and raises some of the fees on the more than 7,000 water permit holders statewide that each use more than 1 million gallons of water annually.
For residential water supplied by municipal, community or private water suppliers, the increase raises the rate from an average of about $7.50 per million gallons of water used to $15 per million gallons of water used. Put another way, the proposal raises the price of water from 0.00075 of a penny per gallon to 0.0015 of a penny per gallon.