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'Pray for rain': Minnesota tracks worsening drought conditions

State leaders said the state was preparing to take further steps to conserve water use as moderate to severe drought conditions were reported in much of the state.

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The U.S. Drought Monitor Midwest drought map, released on July 8, 2021. (U.S. Drought Monitor)
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ST. PAUL — A Minnesota water expert on Friday, July 9, told state lawmakers that Minnesota's drought conditions are worsening and the state was preparing to ask municipalities to cut back on certain water use.

Jason Moeckel, manager of the Department of Natural Resources Ecological and Water section, said while rain across much of the state on Tuesday, July 6, helped reduce dry conditions, weekly Drought Monitor reports show most of the state was experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions.

And with hot weather on the horizon, Moeckel said state officials were getting ready to introduce additional restrictions to conserve water.

“Looking at the forecast and the projections, we’re not seeing much of an end in sight. We anticipate this is going to continue for some time,” he said.

As of Friday, the state was in a "drought watch" phase but lake and stream levels continued to dwindle and dry conditions persisted or worsened in many regions, Moeckel said. The state had suspended a couple dozen industrial use permits in watersheds hit hard by the dry conditions and expected notices of additional suspensions would be coming soon.

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Moeckel said municipalities, farmers and industrial water users got letters asking them to prepare their drought preparedness plans. And on the tipping point of entering a "drought warning" phase, municipalities would likely be asked to "dramatically cut back on water use" outside of homes, he said.

"With enough severe drought conditions and the forecasts being what they are, as well as the water flows in the Mississippi ... looking at the data just this morning, I believe we're on the cusp of that," Moeckel told members of the Subcommittee on Water Policy.

Regions around the state experienced low precipitation during the spring and early summer, spurring the dry conditions, and the north-central part of Minnesota has reported the driest conditions on the ground.

At the virtual meeting's close, Rep. John Poston, R-Lake Shore, urged members to call on higher powers to bring down precipitation. “Please everybody pray for rain,” Poston said.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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