White Bear Lake in the northeast metro needs about four billion gallons of water to be restored to previous lake levels. While state, local and regional officials examine ways to re-establish the lake’s water supply, local businesses and residents are pitching in to do their part to save the lake.
About 100 people attended the third in a series of community forums at Century College in White Bear Lake on July 16 to learn more about conservation and what local efforts are achieving.
“Turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, for example, saves four gallons of water,” said Lanya Ross, Metropolitan Council Principal Environmental Scientist. “In fact, if everyone in the U.S. remembered to turn off the water while brushing, it would save, in one year, more than four times the annual flow of the Mississippi River.”
While conservation, by itself, won’t likely restore White Bear Lake to previous levels, Ross says it’s important to recognize the cumulative impact of individual behaviors.
“Every drop counts and every step you take to save water makes a difference,” she said.
Easy steps to reduce water consumption
Growing reliance on groundwater since the mid-1980s is taking its toll on the region’s water supply, depleting aquifers and damaging lakes, streams and wetlands. Presenters at the forum said there are easy steps everyone can take to reduce water consumption:
Water-saving devices: water saved per year
Faucet aerator: 9,200 gallons
Low-flow showerhead: 10,100 gallons
Low-flow toilet: 7,300 gallons
Turn off the faucet when you don’t need the water stream
Fix water leaks
Install low-flow water fixtures and appliances
Reduce lawn watering
Make choices about landscaping that can reduce water demand
Monitor water use and savings (review water bill).
“About 80 percent of water use in the northeast metro is for residential purposes,” said Julie Ekman, Conservation Assistance and Regulations Manager, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“While most residential water use occurs indoors—toilet flushing, clothes washing, showering, running the water, water leaks—outdoor water use increases significantly during the summer months due, primarily, to lawn watering.”
Conservation is already making a difference
Ekman said water conservation initiatives in the northeast part of the region alone could reduce water use by about 35%, or more than 1 billion gallons a year.
See the Metropolitan Council's online water conservation resources for individuals, businesses, industries and water suppliers.
- Water Customers Conservation Toolbox
- Water Suppliers Conservation Toolbox
Indeed, the launch of the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce campaign, “Doing our Part, Saving the Lake” is already making a difference, said Janice Hallman, Lake Level Resolution Committee of the White Bear Lake Conservation District.
“Water use in the City of White Bear Lake dropped 21% per capita between 2000-2011 as a result of addressing leaks and establishing conservation pricing,” said Hallman. “Water conservation works,” she told the group, also citing examples in Boston and St. Paul.
“In 1988, customer demand for St. Paul water peaked at 58 million gallons a day. Water conservation measures, coupled with a cultural shift away from extensive summer lawn watering, were largely responsible for a 25% decline in water use by 2012,” she said.
Many communities discussing water issues
The forum was one of three held in White Bear Lake to focus primarily on the northeast metro. However, Metropolitan Council Water Supply Planning Manager Ali Elhassan said conversations about water supply are happening in communities throughout the region, many of which are experiencing population growth and rely on groundwater for water supply.
The series of educational forums called “Our Water, Our Future: Resources in the Northeast Metro” was hosted by the Metropolitan Council and Council members Harry Melander and Sandy Rummel, DNR, U.S. Geological Survey, former legislator Carol McFarlane, Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt, and the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce.