Sustainable aquifers are everyone’s responsibility

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Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part story on the Benson area’s aquifers. Questions are also being raised about aquifers in the Appleton area as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources works on a comprehensive assessment of the state’s groundwater resources.

In one of its studies on groundwater in Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources says that the state is in “urgency room” not the “emergency room.”

“We haven’t got to a stage where we are out (of groundwater) yet. A stage where everyone is needing water and no one has it,” Area DNR Hydrologist Ethan Jenzen told the Swift County Board of Commissioners at their meeting Sept. 5. “We are not California where they literally had to reduce their water use by 35 percent everywhere.”

But what the DNR does know is that groundwater is a limited resource and the state’s aquifers are on a downward trend as use for farm irrigation, livestock operations, municipal use, business and commercial use, and rural resident use exceeds the rate at which those aquifers are replenished.

Several hundred square miles around the Benson area are served by the Middle Benson Aquifer with water also drawn from the Upper and Lower Benson Aquifers. DNR monitoring wells monitoring the levels of those aquifers show they have been dropping raising concerns about future supplies.

That is why it has started an initiative to meet with communities where groundwater supplies are concern before they become a crisis.

“We are in a situation where we know we have a limited resource on a downward trend and we really wanted to engage the community, not just the municipal supply, not just the irrigators, we wanted to work with everybody to really take a hard look at who is using water and how much do we really need,” Jenzen said.

DNR Region 4 Groundwater Planner Tim Gieseke joined Jenzen in outlining the Community-based Aquifer Management Partnership (CAMP) initiative the DNR is rolling out. The study of the Benson aquifers is one of the most advanced in the state and was one the reasons Jenzen and Gieseke are working to raise awareness of the role everyone plays in the future health of aquifers....


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