Clean Water Fund: Cold Spring Grant - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Cold Spring Grant
Protecting Our Drinking Water

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In response to elevated nitrate levels in its water, the city of Cold Spring, Minnesota, has been working with local landowners and others to reduce nitrogen fertilizer applications. In addition to area farmers, the central Minnesota city has partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Rural Water Association, Stearns County, and the Natural Resource Conservation District and has benefited from a grant from the Clean Water Fund.

After studying the issue, the wellhead protection team prioritized fields where recharge to public water supply wells was likely occurring and then worked with area farmers and landowners to reduce the nitrate levels. Cold Spring purchased nitrogen-inhibitor products from the local co-op, which applied the products to farmers’ fields to more efficiently use the nitrogen fertilizer that was being applied to the fields. As a result, farmers reduced their levels of fertilizer from 8 to 16 percent of their current application rates in comparison to University of Minnesota recommendations for coarse textured soils. The use of nitrogen inhibitors, combined with the additional reduction in applied fertilizer, resulted in a decrease of 4,100 pounds of nitrogen applied on 277 acres.

Beyond reducing the nitrogen fertilizer being applied, the partnership has increased the trust and cooperation between the city and local farmers and landowners, a relationship that had been strained in the past. The cooperation has extended to all city residents with education regarding turf management issues to alleviate nitrate loading that may be occurring near public wells.

In addition to the nitrate inhibitors, Cold Spring has installed four monitoring wells and is working with the Minnesota Department of Health to measure the effectiveness of the program and develop information about the source of contaminated groundwater now supplying the city’s wells. The monitoring wells will also show groundwater flow conditions within the drinking water supply management area, which will help reduce uncertainty in future efforts to amend the city’s wellhead protection plans.

The partnership, aided by funds from the Clean Water Fund, has improved vital relationships while making safer the water that Cold Spring is supplying to its 3,850 residents.

June 2011 Cold Spring Update:
Cold Spring obtained a grant to drill five monitoring wells to help better determine the local geology and groundwater flow patterns.  The monitoring wells were drilled in cooperation with the MDH hydrologist and will provide valuable information for future delineations and help monitor the efforts of Cold Spring to reduce nitrates in their drinking water.  The city of Cold Spring is working with farmers in that area, and these wells will help take out some of the uncertainties in the local geology and assist in determining which farmers or areas of the Drinking Water Supply Management Area should be focused on.

MDH provided valuable technical assistance.

Cold Spring is also creating a turf management demonstration project in an effort to help determine leaching rates of nitrates from residential yards near their public supply wells. 

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Updated Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 01:23PM