Public Meeting Held on Possible Fix for Shrinking Shoreline in North Metro

Updated: 01/25/2014 2:47 PM By: Beth McDonough

Do you know where your water supply comes from? It seems like a simple question.  But if you live in 13 communities in the Northeast Metro, the answer is complicated.

That's because thousands of residents and businesses are dealing with a water supply shortage.  Possible solutions were at the top of the agenda at a public meeting Saturday.

If you've driven by White Bear Lake in the past few years, you've seen that it is noticeably down. Water levels dropped six feet in the past 11 years. White Bear Lake's depleting water supply affects 13 Northeast metro communities who depend on the water source for their drinking water.

The Met Council just released possible solutions for the lake's long-term health.

Officials say the problem is man-made. The amount of water being used to flush toilets, take a bath, even water your lawn has doubled since 1980. Resources have been strained and one lake, steadily drained. 

KSTP obtained a copy of the Met Council's newly released report on possible rescues, made public at Saturday's meeting.

It's a report that interests Perry Jones. Like most north metro residents, he depends on pumping groundwater through wells from aquifers deep underground to get water for everyday use at home. Not only does Jones live in the area, he works in the area. 

He's a Hydrologist with the U.S. Geological survey studying the low water level, "when we affect the aquifer by pumping we also affect the surface water nearby."

Shrinking water levels are seen in Washington, Ramsey and Anoka counties. Most visibly at White Bear Lake, "the lake level has gone down almost six feet since 2003," according to Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL District 43. He sponsored a law to pore over the growing problem and and find a fix. 

In a newly released report, the Met Council recommends three things: building a pipeline from the Mississippi River, connecting to a new treatment facility or hooking up to the St. Paul Distribution System, "any solutions that may be out here to bring water levels up for White Bear Lake, none of them are really that cheap," notes Jones.

All three proposals were talked about at the public Saturday meeting at Mahtomedi City Hall.

In order to fill up White Bear Lake experts estimate 4 billion gallons of water would be needed to be pumped in for the water levels to rise. But even then experts can't be sure that the water levels would stay high.

Pumping water from the Mississippi or St. Croix Rivers to White Bear Lake is just one of three options proposed by the Met Council.

Another option is connecting the area's raw water to a new regional treatment facility.

The third option is to connect the homes in the Northeast suburbs with St. Paul's drinking water supply.

According to Representative Peter Fischer, the war on the areas dwindling water supply may be fought on multiple fronts.

"It may not be one of the three, it may for two of the three or all three of the three. That's become each are addressing different parts of the problem," said Rep. Peter Fischer, (DFL) Maplewood.

One battle tactic agreed by most at Saturday's meeting was conservation, for each person to do their part not to waste this valuable resource.

"Conservation is our first line of defense against this water problem we're going to be facing," said Ady Wickstrom, Shoreview City Councilwoman.

"We've taken for granted the amount of water we have in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes," said Grant resident Becky Siekmeier.

The Met Council is still studying the exact cost of each of the three options. Their cost analysis could be out by April.

The final report is due in October, and will be discussed by the legislature in the 2015 session.

KSTP also learned, the DNR put together the first ever plan in the state for groundwater management.