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DNR advises Minnesotans to conserve water as drought spreads

This map shows location of drought in Minnesota. The Arrowhead region and the northwest counties show no drought, while about a dozen counties in the southern third of the state are in extreme drought. Most of Douglas County is in moderate drought.
This map shows drought locations across Minnesota.
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As drought spreads across Minnesota, the DNR is asking Minnesotans to conserve on water use.

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor, which is based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has documented the steady march of abnormally dry conditions and drought across the state. Two weeks ago, it recorded extreme drought in several counties in the Twin Cities and in south-central Minnesota, the first extreme drought in the state since mid-December.

The monitor website defines drought as "a moisture deficit bad enough to have social, environmental or economic effects." It updates its weekly maps and ranks drought as None, Abnormally Dry, Moderate, Severe, Extreme, and Exceptional Drought.

Almost all of Douglas County is in moderate drought, except for a slice of abnormally dry conditions in the northeast section. Pope and Grant counties are entirely in moderate drought, and almost all of Otter Tail and Stevens counties are in drought.

Drought can persist over several years, the DNR says.

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“Precipitation deficits in fall and leading through the winter can often dictate drought conditions leading into the spring,” said Dan Hawblitzel, meteorologist-in-charge with NOAA/National Weather Service in Chanhassen, Minnesota. “That was the case for the 2021 drought and it is possible these deficits in late 2022 will persist into 2023.”

The average Minnesota resident uses about 52 gallons per person per day, according to the DNR. The agency suggests the following ways to reduce water use:

  • Turn off the shower while shampooing and lathering. Turn it back on to rinse.
  • Install a low-flow shower head. The DNR suggests ordering from Xcel Energy , which offers one low-flow shower head for free.
  • Install toilets that use less than 1.6 gallons per flush.
  • Repair water leaks.
  • Replace water-dependent Kentucky blue grass lawns with drought-resistance fine and tall fescue grasses.
  • Turn about 20% of your lawn into native and drought-resistant plants, which saves water and maintenance.
Reporter Karen Tolkkinen grew up in Plymouth, Minnesota, graduated from the University of Minnesota with a journalism degree in 1994, and was driven by curiosity to work her way around the United States.
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