36% of Minnesota is now experiencing severe drought, 35% experiencing extreme drought and 7% experiencing exceptional drought.
Three major watersheds in Minnesota have entered the drought restrictive phase, reported the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
These watersheds are: The Mississippi River Headwaters watershed; the Rainy River watershed; and the Red River watershed. All three are experiencing extreme to exceptional drought, which calls for further restrictions on water use to protect drinking water supplies, reported the Minnesota DNR.
According to the Minnesota DNR, the entire state entered the drought warning phase in mid-July and since then conditions have worsened in most of Minnesota, particularly northern Minnesota.
The drought intensity classification scale was implemented in 2000. Entry of the restrictive phase for a portion of Minnesota under the exceptional drought intensity classification is the first of its kind since the implementation of the scale.
More information about this scale can be found through the U.S. Drought Monitor’s Drought Classification, and the criteria for the classification of a drought restrictive phase are in the Minnesota Statewide Drought Plan
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and others are taking additional steps as a result, including:
- Notifying water appropriators with DNR permits that they should minimize non-essential water uses and follow water conservation measures;
- Notifying public water suppliers within these watersheds to implement water use reduction actions with a goal of reducing water use to 25% above January levels; And
- Increasing public awareness of drought conditions.
The DNR will also suspend or modify water appropriations permits for non-priority water users as conditions warrant in specific watersheds. A map of watersheds where non-priority permits are currently subject to suspension is available on Minnesota’s DNR’s drought management webpage.
“The DNR is implementing the Statewide Drought Plan, which includes significant water use reduction goals for public water suppliers,” said DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division Director Katie Smith in the Minnesota DNR press release. “These water use reductions can be difficult but are necessary to ensure water is available for the highest priority uses, such as drinking water.”
According to the DNR, more than 75% of Minnesotans rely on groundwater for their water supply.