Water Supply Planning Facts

Water is vital to the region's identity, livability and prosperity

The Twin Cities metropolitan area is blessed with an enviable amount of water resources: three major rivers, vast underground aquifers, and 950 lakes. Water is key to our identity as Minnesotans and what we want for our children. Water is also vital to the region’s prosperity. Every sector of the region’s economy is influenced by water—agriculture, manufacturing, mining, travel and lodging, and services.

The region is home to nearly three million people, over half of Minnesota’s population. As we grow, our water resources require protection so future generations can have the affordable, safe, abundant water needed for a prosperous and equitable region.

Our steady population growth, increased groundwater pumping, changing land use, and variable weather and climate may challenge some communities’ ability to use traditional water sources to meet future demand. Good stewardship of our water resources requires science-based information and analysis.

photo of two white birds floating on water

Water supply planning is a collaborative effort 

photo of a young girl drinking a glass of waterAgencies, businesses and individuals all have a responsibility for ensuring a sustainable water supply.  Collaborative actions are needed at the individual level, the community level, the regional level, and the state and federal level.

Metropolitan Council’s role. In 2005 the Minnesota Legislature—concerned about the effects of regional growth on regional water supplies—directed the Council to carry out water supply activities, including development of the region’s first Metropolitan Area Master Water Supply Plan.

Collaboration. The Legislature also established policy and technical advisory committees—representing cities, counties, state agencies and watershed management organizations—to assist the Council. The Metropolitan Area Water Supply Policy Advisory Committee has the additional responsibility for approving the Master Plan. 

Community outreach. The Council recognizes the responsibility and authority of local water suppliers to provide water, but communities often draw water from the same sources and the cumulative impact of individual water suppliers can be significant. To support local water supply work, the Council engages regional planners, municipal water suppliers, government officials and interested citizens.

Result. The region’s first Master Water Supply Plan was adopted in 2010 and updated in 2015. This document directs the Council’s water supply planning assistance for communities and promotes work such as water efficiency education and grants, sub-regional analysis of various water supply approaches, and more integrated planning among state agencies.

Master Plan supports local control of water supply

The Master Water Supply Plan provides communities with critical planning assistance. It recognizes local control and responsibility for owning, maintaining and operating water systems, and it:

  • Highlights the benefits of integrated planning for stormwater, wastewater and water supply.
  • Emphasizes and supports conservation and inter-jurisdictional cooperation.
  • Provides clear guidance by identifying key challenges, issues, and considerations in the region—and available approaches—without dictating solutions. 

Sustainability is overarching goal

The Master Plan has a single overarching goal: to ensure a sustainable water supply for current and future generations. Sustainable water supply management maximizes the region’s use of existing infrastructure investments—usually groundwater—within sustainable limits. Water conservation and other approaches can be used so that water is available to meet current and future demand. 

Council supports wise water supply decisions 

photo of a water towerThe Metropolitan Council provides information and technical assistance to local communities.

  • Help for communities as they develop their local comprehensive plans, including their local water supply plans.
  • A database of technical information that provides a picture of the region’s water supply. The Council’s computer model (Metro Model 3) can predict regional impacts on groundwater under various scenarios. Communities are welcome to use the model for their own planning.
  • The Conservation Toolbox helps residents, communities, and businesses identify and carry out methods to increase water efficiency
  • Water Efficiency Grants support community efforts to use water more efficiently.
  • The Stormwater Reuse Guide provides step-by-step instructions that describe how to envision, plan, and implement a project for using stormwater in lieu of potable water.
  • Feasibility studies conducted with local and multi-community groups compare various water supply options. Communities can consider these options in their own planning.

The Council’s water supply planning activities are funded largely through the state Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment’s Clean Water Fund.

For more information

For additional information, email Principal Environmental Scientist Lanya Ross at the Council or call her at 651.602.1803.