Minnesota portions enter the restricted phase of drought

Terry Davis

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN -Three major water strands have entered the restrictive phase of drought, 36 percent of Minnesota now facing severe drought, 35 percent extremely drought, and 7 percent exceptional drought.

The Headwatershed of the Rainy River, the watershed of the Rainy River, and the Red River watershed are under acute drought, which requires increased limitations on the consumption of drinking water.

The whole state entered the phase of drought alert in mid-July. In most of Minnesota, especially in northern Minnesota, conditions have worsened in the last month.

A section of Minnesota was first recognized as having extreme drought intensity since the drought gradient scale was devised in 2000.

The US Drought Monitor's Drought Classification discusses climatic criteria to define drought and possible repercussions observed in each category.

The criteria for determining a dry phase restriction phase are established in the Minnesota Statewide Drought Plan (link external), including the drought severity rating and the flow rate for the Mississippi River in the U.S. Geological Service Brooklyn Park gage.

Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and others are protecting the Mississippi River Headwaters, Rainy and Red River watersheds.

- Encourage water appropriators to reduce non-essential water use, utilize more efficient irrigation equipment, inspect for and repair water leaks, among other steps. If you need technical support or have issues, don't hesitate to contact the local DNR hydrologist.

- Notifying public water suppliers within certain watersheds to reduce water use by 25 percent. Follow up with your municipal or public water provider for specifics on local water use reduction measures and limitations. Public water suppliers may restrict non-essential water consumption (such as outside irrigation and car washing).

- Raise public awareness of drought.

The DNR continues to suspend or alter non-priority water users' permits as conditions warrant in individual watersheds. On the DNR's drought management portal, you may see a map of watersheds where non-priority permits are now suspended.

It will take five to nine inches of precipitation spread over a month to alleviate the drought considerably. Multiple rainfall episodes restore soils more efficiently than a single strong rainfall event. Water surface and groundwater react differently over time.

Drought is a natural occurrence in Minnesota. The state faces moderate to severe drought for a couple of weeks almost every year. Droughts in Minnesota are usually short-lived, but long-term droughts can reach high intensity. But while this year's drought isn't as bad as 1988-89 or the 1930s, it is becoming more severe and threatening wildfires.

“The DNR is implementing the Statewide Drought Plan, which includes significant water use reduction goals for public water suppliers,” DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division Director Katie Smith said. “These water use reductions can be difficult but are necessary to ensure water is available for the highest priority uses, such as drinking water.”

More than 75 percent of Minnesotans rely on groundwater. Reducing consumption now saves water later. The DNR website has further information on drought. On the website, you can sign up for drought alerts and information.

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