Water resources

Sustainability of Minnesota's Groundwaters

What is groundwater sustainability?

Much of Minnesota is naturally endowed with good supplies of groundwater. However, those supplies are not evenly distributed in the state nor are they limitless. Overpumping of the system causes continued declines of groundwater levels in aquifers, local impacts on streams and wetlands, and the potential that needed groundwater resources would not be available for future use. Groundwater withdrawal that results in unacceptable impacts on the resource is not sustainable.

Sustainable use of groundwater is the use of water to provide for the needs of society, now and in the future, without unacceptable social, economic, or environmental consequences.

Sustainable use of water resources requires balancing the use of the resource among competing uses, including environmental uses. To assess the long-term viability of a particular ground-water use, it is necessary to consider both the technical aspects, such as the amount of water in circulation, as well as the desires of the community to accept or limit economic, social, and environmental impacts.

Using water in ways that minimize impacts on both groundwater and surface water requires a comprehensive, long-term approach to water resources management that accounts for system interactions.

The following documents provide a short introduction to groundwater management and sustainability.

Statement of Issues and Needs

A short statement of current issues and needs related to ground water management and sustainability, summarizing information in a series of fact sheets that provide a closer look at specific issues.

Statement of Issues and Needs June 2005 This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it.

Fact Sheets

The following fact sheets were prepared as background to the "Statement of Issues and Needs". Additional facts sheets will be included on this list as they are finalized.

The Resource

  • Where is ground water and is it available for use? June 2005 This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it.
    Ground water is everywhere beneath Minnesota's land surface, but it is not necessarily available for use everywhere. This fact sheet describes the six ground water areas in Minnesota and the general availability of ground water in those areas.
  • Ground water and surface water - the vital connection June 2005 This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it.
    Minnesota's aquifers, streams, lakes, and wetlands are sustained by a balancing act between precipitation and these parts of the hydrologic system. This fact sheet discusses this balancing act and what happens when the balance is changed.

Management Options

For more information

Selected References and Recommended Reading

  • Alley, William M.; Reilly, Thomas E.; and Franke, O. Lehn, 1999, Sustainability of ground-water resources: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1186, 79 p.
  • Glennon, Robert J., 2002, Water Follies-groundwater pumping and the fate of America's fresh waters: Island Press, Washington, D.C., 314 p.
  • Glennon, Robert J., Maddock, III, Thomas, 1997, The concept of capture: the hydrology and law of stream/aquifer interactions, in Chapter 22 of proceedings of the forty-third annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute: Denver, Colo.
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Waters Division, c. 1988, Water allocation and management 1985-1987 in Volume I, the value of water to Minnesota: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Saint Paul.
  • __________, 2000, Minnesota's water supply, natural conditions and human impacts, September 2000: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Saint Paul, 22 p.
  • __________, 2005, Water year data summary, 2003 and 2004: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Saint Paul, 64 p.
  • Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, 2000, Minnesota watermarks: gauging the flow of progress 2000-2010: Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, Saint Paul, 45 p.
  • Sophocleous, Marlos, ed., 1998, Perspectives on sustainable development of water resources in Kansas: Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin 239, 239 p.
  • Winter, Thomas C.; Harvey, Judson W.; Franke, O. Lehn; and Alley, William M., 1998, Ground water and surface water, a single resource: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1139, 79 p.

External Website Resources