Portions of Minnesota Enter Drought Restrictive Phase
August 18, 2021
DNR and partners are implementing next steps in drought response
With 36% of Minnesota now experiencing severe drought, 35% experiencing extreme drought and 7% experiencing exceptional drought, three major watersheds have entered the drought restrictive phase.
The Mississippi River Headwaters watershed, the Rainy River watershed and the Red River watershed are experiencing extreme to exceptional drought that necessitates further restrictions on water use to protect drinking water supplies.
The entire state entered the drought warning phase in mid-July. Conditions have worsened in much of Minnesota, particularly northern Minnesota, over the last month.
For the first time since the drought intensity classification scale was implemented in 2000, a portion of Minnesota has entered the exceptional drought intensity classification.
Climactic factors that are used to categorize drought, and the possible impacts observed in each category, are explained in the U.S. Drought Monitor’s Drought Classification.
The criteria for designation of a drought restrictive phase are specified in the Minnesota Statewide Drought Plan, and include the drought severity rating and, for the Mississippi River, flow rates at the Brooklyn Park gauge operated by the
U.S. Geological Service.
With this restrictive phase designation for the Mississippi River Headwaters, Rainy River and Red River watersheds, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and others are taking additional steps, including:
Notifying water appropriators with DNR permits that they should minimize non-essential water uses and follow water conservation measures, such as reducing landscape irrigation, using more efficient irrigation equipment, and checking for and repairing water leaks. Water appropriation permit holders can contact the local DNR area hydrologist for technical assistance or with any questions.
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. Residents, businesses and landowners should watch for communications from their municipal or public water supplier for details on local water use reduction actions and restrictions. Restrictions on non-essential water uses (such as outdoor irrigation, car washes, etc.) may be enacted as public water suppliers take steps to achieve water reduction goals.
Increasing public awareness of drought conditions.
The DNR also continues to suspend or modify water appropriations permits for non-priority water users as conditions warrant in specific watersheds. More information about this process, including a map of watersheds where non-priority permits are currently subject to suspension, is available on DNR’s drought management webpage.
Under current conditions, it will take at least five to nine inches of precipitation spread over a period of about one month to significantly alleviate the drought. Soils are more efficiently replenished by multiple rainfall events than by any single heavy rainfall event. Surface water and groundwater respond somewhat differently over time.
Drought is a naturally occurring feature of Minnesota’s climate. Some level of moderate and severe drought typically occurs in the state almost every year for at least a few weeks. Most severe drought in Minnesota is short-lived, but drought in Minnesota can, during very persistent dry conditions, enter the extreme intensity classification. The current drought is not as severe as the historic droughts of 1988-89 or the 1930s, but it is intensifying, bringing significant challenges to many individuals and businesses and contributing to dangerous wildfire conditions.
“The DNR is implementing the Statewide Drought Plan, which includes significant water use reduction goals for public water suppliers,” DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division Director Katie Smith said. “These water use reductions can be difficult but are necessary to ensure water is available for the highest priority uses, such as drinking water.”
Minnesotans are encouraged to learn how much water they are using compared to the average American home and identify ways to reduce water use now and in the future. More than 75% of Minnesotans rely on groundwater for their water supply. Reducing use today saves water for the future.
More information about drought is available on the DNR website. The website includes a link where anyone can sign up to receive drought-related notifications and information.
Do You Care for an Aquarium or Water Garden Pond?
If so, read on!
The DNR is conducting a survey of aquarium and water garden pond owners in the state. We need your advice, to help us prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive plants and animals to Minnesota’s waters. Invasive species are non-native species that present risks to Minnesota’s fish, wildlife, plants, water quality, recreation and human health.
Many invasive species have been introduced through global shipping, but hobbies that involve live organisms, such as aquariums and ponds, have also led to the introduction and spread of some invasive species. Some examples of invasive species that have unfortunately been found in the wild in the Great Lakes region through these pathways include goldfish, red-eared sliders, flowering rush and Brazilian waterweed.
In 2019, the DNR met with representatives of the pond and aquarium industry and hobby groups to discuss how to prevent the spread of invasive species. All participants agreed that they had a role to play and felt that more information was needed to determine how best to proceed. In the spirit of cooperation and to improve our programs and outreach, the DNR seeks to better understand aquarium and pond owners’ motivations, concerns and practices. We want to know how we can improve our educational materials, the best ways to communicate with hobbyists, where hobbyists like to get their aquarium plants and animals, and what hobbyists do with animals and plants they can no longer care for.
If you are an aquarist or water gardener, please help us to protect our natural resources and provide better service to aquarium and pond owners by taking the online survey.
Want more information? Check out these webpages:
Trade pathways for invasive species introductions
Hobbyists: Responsible buyers
Businesses: Pet and Aquarium and Horticulture
You can find the updated list of infested waters online
What’s on the list?
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regularly updates the state infested waters list, which includes Minnesota lakes and rivers containing certain aquatic invasive species.
If you harvest bait, fish commercially, or divert or take water from lakes or rivers on this list, you may need to follow special regulations.
- The most complete and up-to-date list of infested waters is an Excel spreadsheet available on the DNR website.
- Using the Excel spreadsheet, you can sort, search or filter the list by water body name, county, species, or year. If you have questions about what the information means, see the tab called “Column descriptions”.
Questions about the infested waters list?
Contact Kelly Pennington, Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Consultant
Questions for your local aquatic invasive species staff? Contact us
FAQ . . .
Frequently Asked Questions about Lakes
Helpful Information on the Responsibility of Owners and Their Lake Equipment
Is there a DNR Form I need to Have to Transport Watercraft from and AIS Infested Lake such as West Battle Lake?
Yes there is! Please Click HERE to view, print or download the DNR Form
What is swimmer’s itch and how can I prevent it?
The most common cause for swimmer’s itch is exposure to parasites while swimming or coming into contact with infested waters. Frequent swimming in bodies of water associated with frequent contamination, such as ponds, streams, and lakes, increases an individual’s risk for contracting the parasite. Frequent exposure to parasites also increases an individual’s risk of serious symptoms that require medical intervention, such as a rash lasting longer than three days and infection. Individuals may also be exposed to the parasites that cause swimmer’s itch by coming into contact with ducks, geese, gulls, beavers, muskrats, or their droppings. To minimize the risk, it is suggested individuals avoid swimming in bodies of water frequented by large amounts of birds and to avoid feeding ducks and geese.
See information and advice on preventing swimmer’s itch from the Mayo Clinic. or contact the Minnesota Department of Health , Acute Disease Epidemiology at 612-676-5414. For information on how to treat swimmers itch, contact your doctor.
Hiring businesses to install or remove water-related equipment
If you hire a business to install or remove your boat, dock, or lift, or other water-related equipment, make sure they have completed AIS training and are on the DNR’s list of Permitted Service Providers. Lake service providers that have completed DNR training and obtained their service provider permit will have a permit sticker in the lower driver’s-side corner of their vehicle’s windshield. They have attended training on AIS laws and many have experience identifying and removing invasive species.
Moving docks, lifts, and equipment to another waterbody
If you plan to move a dock, lift or other water equipment from one lake or river to another, all visible zebra mussels, faucet snails, and aquatic plants must be removed whether they are dead or alive. You may not transport equipment with prohibited invasive species or aquatic plants attached. The equipment must be out of the water for 21 days before it can be placed in another waterbody.
Storing lifts and docks for winter
You may remove water-related equipment from a water body – even if it has zebra mussels or other prohibited invasive species attached – and place it on the adjacent shoreline property without a permit.
However, if you want to transport a dock or lift to another location for storage or repair, you may need a permit to authorize transport of prohibited invasive species and aquatic plants.
Transporting watercraft for storage
You may not transport any watercraft with zebra mussels, faucet snails, or other prohibited invasive species or aquatic plants attached away from a water access or other shoreland property, even if you intend to put it in storage for the winter.
If you need to transport your watercraft at the end of the season, you may need a permit to authorize transport of prohibited invasive species and aquatic plants.
Transporting Aquatic Plants for Disposal
You may not transport aquatic plants from a shoreland property to a disposal location without a permit. Shoreland owners interested in transporting aquatic plants – including aquatic plants with prohibited invasive species attached – to a disposal location must complete and sign a permit to authorize transport of aquatic plants and attached prohibited invasive species.
Click URL Link Below to View Additional Answers to FAQ
Do I need a DNR permit to remove the cattails along my lake shore?
The control or removal of emergent aquatic vegetation, such as cattails, bulrushes or wild rice, does require a DNR aquatic plant management permit). The DNR Section of Fisheries regulates the control or removal of aquatic vegetation by physical or chemical means. Permits can be applied for through the DNR Regional Fisheries Office serving the area where your shoreline property is located. They may be contacted at (651) 259-5100 for more information.
Also see the DNR Waters information sheet titled Shoreline Alterations: Lakescaping (1.1 Mb).
What are “environmental” lakes? Are they wild? Are there restrictions on motors or hunting and fishing?
The term “environmental lake” most likely is taken from the Natural Environment lake classification found in Minnesota’s Shoreland Management Program. Many people mistakenly infer that the Natural Environment classification on many of Minnesota’s smaller, shallow lakes means they are wild lakes with limits on motors, hunting or fishing. To a degree, this is true in that Natural Environment is the strictest of the three lake classifications. However, the classification is used to determine lot size, setbacks and, to a certain degree, land uses on the adjacent land. The classification has nothing to do with surface water use of boats or motors, hunting and fishing or fish management. These are governed by other regulations. As the larger, deeper lakes that are more suitable for recreational or general development (the other two lake classifications) become developed, there is growing pressure to develop the smaller, more sensitive natural environment basins. Hence there is no guarantee that the wilderness character that some of these lakes now have will be preserved. It is a growing concern of many local governments, outdoors recreation groups and the DNR that such lakes may require more protection than currently provided in the rules.
The shoreland management rules were established in the early 1970’s and are intended to help govern the orderly development of land adjacent to Minnesota’s many lakes and rivers. The way it works is that DNR established statewide standards and lake/river classifications that local governmental units (counties and municipalities) were then required to incorporate into their land use controls (planning and zoning ordinances). To learn more, click on the Guide for Buying and Managing Shoreland. There you can find information on the lake classification system along with a more complete explanation of the shoreland management program.
How are lakes defined in Minnesota?
A lake is not defined by size or depth as some may suggest. A lake may be defined as an enclosed basin filled or partly filled with water. A lake may have an inlet and/or an outlet stream, or it may be completely enclosed (landlocked). Generally, a lake is an area of open, relatively deep water that is large enough to produce a wave-swept shore. For regulatory purposes, Minnesota has grouped its waters into two categories: public waters and public water wetlands. This makes it easier to determine whether a DNR public waters work permit (available under DNR Waters Forms) is required before changes can be made to the course, current, or cross section of these waters.
The state has an interest in protecting not only the amount of water contained in these lakes, wetlands and streams but also the container that confines these waters (i.e., lakes, wetlands, and streams). The obvious reason for these conservation measures is that these waters provide a vital habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as a place for people to fish, hunt, trap, boat, and swim. However, the most important benefits provided by these waters are less obvious:
- Substantial amounts of water are stored in these areas and it can seep into the ground to recharge ground water aquifers.
- Lakes, wetlands, and streams can store excess water in times of flooding and provide an important reserve of surface water during times of drought. These areas are nature’s water treatment systems. They provide an ideal environment for aquatic vegetation and animal organisms to purify the water we have contaminated with suspended soil (erosion), nutrients (from fertilizers and animal wastes), and other pollutants.
How do I go about naming a lake?
Naming lakes, rivers, streams or other water bodies (natural geographic features) in Minnesota is guided by the statutory process found in Minnesota Statute 83A.04 – 83A.07. The process requires 15 or more registered voters to petition the county board of commissioners in the county where the feature is located for a public hearing concerning a proposed name. If the public hearing is successful, the county board would adopt a resolution in support of the proposed name (or other name if favored by the board as a result of testimony at the hearing) and forward it to the state commissioner of natural resources. The name proposed in the resolution MUST be approved by the commissioner of natural resources to become the official name of the feature in Minnesota. Approved names are subsequently submitted to the United States Board on Geographic Names for federal approval and use.
The process to change a name is the same. However, a name that has existed for 40 years or more may not be changed. Also, the commissioner of natural resources will not approve a name that commemorates, or may be construed to commemorate, living persons. For additional information, please contact Peter.Boulay@state.mn.us; telephone (651) 296-4214.
Also see: Naming Geographic Features
What is a “spring-fed” lake?
To varying degrees many, if not most lakes receive some water from ground water sources or are “spring fed.” When swimming, one might notice colder, localized areas or areas of the lake might remain open along the shoreline during winter. Both are likely due to ground water flowing into the lake. Lakes also lose water to ground water sources. Most lakes have both; some ground water flows into the lake and some lake water flows into the ground water system or aquifer. Variations in precipitation patterns can cause the amount in or out to change significantly. Generally, complex hydrologic computer models including information such as watershed, geology, precipitation, lake level, and ground water level data are used to estimate how much is flowing in or out of the lake.
What is a meandered lake?
A meandered lake is a body of water, except streams, located within the meander lines shown on plats made by the United States General Land Office (Federal Bureau of Land Management). A meander line is a series of courses and distances to delineate the area of a body of water. It is not a boundary line, nor does it convey land ownership information.
What is the definition of public waters?
(See complete legal definition under Public Waters Work Permits Program.) Public waters are all water basins and watercourses that meet the criteria set forth in Minnesota Statutes, Section 103G.005, Subdivision 15 and are designated on the DNR’s Public Waters Inventory Maps.
What is the definition of ordinary high water level (OHWL) and why is it important?
The ordinary high water level (OHWL) is a reference point that defines the DNR’s regulatory authority over development projects that are proposed to alter the course, current, or cross section of public waters and public waters wetlands. For lakes and wetlands, the OHW is the highest water level that has been maintained for a sufficient period of time to leave evidence upon the landscape. The OHWL is commonly that point where the natural vegetation changes from predominately aquatic to predominantly terrestrial. For watercourses, the OHWL is the elevation of the top of the bank of the channel. For reservoirs and flowages, the OHWL is the operating elevation of the normal summer pool. The OHWL is also used by local units of government as a reference point from which to determine structure setbacks from water bodies and watercourses. See also legal definition under Hydrographics Program.
Also see technical paper (TP #11) “Guidelines for Ordinary High Water Level (OHWL) Determinations”. This paper reflects current terminology as well as the DNR Area Hydrologists’ addresses and phone numbers.
Why is the water level on my lake so high or so low? What is the DNR going to do about it?
The DNR does not control the water level elevation of lakes. In general, the water level of a lake is entirely dependent upon the amount of snowfall and precipitation that an area receives, how much of the resultant moisture is contributed by runoff into the lake, how much water is recharged to or discharged from the lake through ground water and how much water evaporates from the lake. In some instances, the water level is controlled by illegal human activity or beaver activity. See also the DNR Lake Level Minnesota Program, for information about lake gauge measurements and lake levels.
What is meant by “lake turnover”? How and why do lakes do this in autumn and spring?
- The key to this question is how water density varies with water temperature. Water is most dense (heaviest) at 39º F (4º C) and as temperature increases or decreases from 39º F, it becomes increasingly less dense (lighter). In summer and winter, lakes are maintained by climate in what is called a stratified condition. Less dense water is at the surface and more dense water is near the bottom.
- During late summer and autumn, air temperatures cool the surface water causing its density to increase. The heavier water sinks, forcing the lighter, less dense water to the surface. This continues until the water temperature at all depths reaches approximately 39º F. Because there is very little difference in density at this stage, the waters are easily mixed by the wind. The sinking action and mixing of the water by the wind results in the exchange of surface and bottom waters which is called “turnover.”
- During spring, the process reverses itself. This time ice melts, and surface waters warm and sink until the water temperature at all depths reaches approximately 39º F. The sinking combined with wind mixing causes spring “turnover.”
- This describes the general principle; however, other factors (including climate and lake depth variations) can cause certain lakes to act differently. A more detailed description of the physical characteristics of lakes, including temporal and density interactions, can be found at the Water on the Web site, sponsored by the University of Minnesota – Duluth and funded by the National Science Foundation.
What can I do to prevent erosion?
Two general methods are available to prevent your lakeshore from eroding: hard armoring and soft armoring. The most common hard-armor technique is riprap, which consists of placing large rocks in the water and up the slope of the eroding shoreline. Riprap is commonly used to control erosion along streambanks and lakeshores where vegetation is not sufficient to prevent erosion caused by high water or wave action. It is expensive to install and is often installed incorrectly. If installed properly, however, riprap normally provides good protection from the impact of waves and ice. Some believe that riprap is overused and unsightly and that Minnesota lakes have lost much of their natural shoreline to riprap.
In contrast to hard-armor techniques, soft-armor methods use organic and inorganic materials combined with plants to create a living barrier of protection. Bioengineering, a soft-armor method, provides erosion control through the use of live vegetation. Bioengineering can be used in addition to or in place of hard armor such as rock riprap. It creates a more natural, environmentally friendly shoreline that includes additional benefits to erosion control, such as habitat enhancement. An excellent source of information on these methods is the DNR publication “Lakescaping For Wildlife and Water Quality” available from the Minnesota’s Bookstore. A DNR public waters work permit (application available under DNR Waters Forms) may be required for both soft and hard armoring methods.
Also see: Shoreline Alteration Information Sheets
What is a Lake Improvement District (LID)?
A Lake Improvement District (LID) is special-purpose district formed around a lake in accordance with Minnesota Statutes, sections 103B.501-103B.581 . A lake improvement district is a local unit of government established by resolution of appropriate county boards and/or city governing bodies, or by the commissioner, for the implementation of defined lake management projects and for the assessment of the costs thereof.
Where can I purchase a lake map? Where can I obtain a printout with information on what kind of fish are in my lake (i.e., lake survey maps)?
What are the DNR Waters permitting requirements for lakefront property?
See the water permits page to learn when you need a permit.
Who Owns the Lake Bed?
Read the article Pardon Me Myth! Who Owns the Lake Bed? by Dave Milles.
More DNR Info . . .
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