Protecting Drinking Water Sources in Minnesota
Source Water Protection
The job of a public water supplier (PWS) is to supply safe and affordable drinking water to their customers. This involves protecting the drinking water source from contamination and other risks. A PWS identifies and manages risks as part of MDH's Source Water Protection program. Partners often include state agencies, local government, citizens, and natural resource professionals.
Reaching Minnesota with source water protection plans
Source water protection plans are a tool to keep drinking water clean and abundant for generations to come. As of 2017, protection plans in Minnesota covered:
- 91% of people's drinking water at home supplied by a PWS
- 513 communities
- 1.28 million acres of land (3% of state land)
What source water protection planning looks like in Minnesota
A public water supplier focuses activities in an area most important to the drinking water source. This is called the Drinking Water Supply Management Area (DWSMA).
Map of groundwater DWSMAS in the area around Rochester
Verndale public water supplier working with farmers on nutrient management
Cromwell public water supplier helping a private well owner seal unused well
Cold Spring public water supplier hosting a turf management workshop for residents.
Impact of source water protection efforts
The goal of source water protection is to prevent threats from becoming a public health problem. Drinking water comes from extensive, complex underground aquifers and/or surface water features. Problems affecting drinking water sources can take a community many years to fix. Water quality and quantity information only tells part of the story. The array of risks facing drinking water sources means many players can contribute to a problem and solutions must involve multiple stakeholders. A community's approach to dealing with risks often tells us more about how well source water protection is working. Featured success stories are below.
Many cities in Minnesota are known for their surface-water features. The southwestern Minnesota city of Worthington, known for its 880-acre Lake Okabena, is a prime example.
While surface water is an integral part of the city and its culture, groundwater is the backbone of the water supply for Worthington’s 12,000 residents. Groundwater for water supply is hard to find in the Worthington area, so Worthington Public Utilities (WPU) has long made an effort to protect the resources on which it relies. Since 2006, the city, along with other local partners, has contributed nearly $2 million to help set aside 520 acres of intensive agricultural land for conservation.
One of their most significant efforts was in 2014, when a critical piece of agricultural land in the city’s drinking water supply management area went up for auction. The 150-acre parcel of land comprises an area in which the groundwater is particularly vulnerable and connects to other existing conservation areas. Recognizing the benefits that parcel acquisition and protection would bring to wildlife habitat, drinking water protection, and surface water quality, allowed WPU to bring together a broad-based coalition of partners to raise the $850,000 needed to purchase the land. This successful effort culminated in a special dedication of the “Worthington Wells Wildlife Management Area” at the 2014 Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Opener.