Over the past six months, ECM’s Editorial Board has outlined a number of challenges facing Minnesotans when it comes to water quality and quantity. If one thing was made clear, it is that change is critical for us to maintain a safe, and ample, water supply.
In a seemingly water-rich state, it can be hard to recognize the severity of the problem. Drought-stricken regions in the southern and western United States are getting a preview of what many Americans could experience if efforts to manage water are not stepped up.
Forty out of 50 state water managers, including Minnesota, expect at least some kind of regional water shortage in their state in the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. This agency, which is an independent, non-partisan office that investigates how the federal government spends its money, reports that over the past 10 years there are growing concerns about the impacts of climate change and severe weather events (including droughts and floods) on water resources.
Los Angeles has just logged its driest five years on record, receiving half the rainfall of the average five-year amount. Californians are responding. According to the State Water Resources Control Board, there was a 28 percent drop in residential water use in May, compared with the same month in 2013. To many in Minnesota, conservation seems like a nice idea, but not a critical one.
The majority of Minnesota’s drinking water supply comes from groundwater, as compared to the surface water that is predominantly used by the rest of the country. But increasing reliance on unseen aquifers that are pumped faster than they can naturally recharge will eventually lead to a water shortage, according to experts.
Dr. Deborah Swackhamer, water expert and University of Minnesota professor emeritus, predicts that without changes in source, five generations from now Minnesotans may not have enough water. Using surface water will be more expensive, Swackhamer said, but a necessary alternative.