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Continued: Feb. 24: Minnesota draining its supplies of water

 

“If you fail to make a choice, then at some point the aquifer will do that for you,” said Jason Moeckel, a water manager for the DNR.

This year the DNR will ask one or two water-strapped communities to bring in their biggest water users — cities, farmers, ethanol plants and others — to negotiate conflicts among themselves. It’s never been done in Minnesota, and though many may like the idea of “local control,” the reality may be much more contentious, officials say.

“Everyone likes [it] until they have to be a bad guy to their neighbor,” said Jim Sehl, a DNR water manager. “That’s going to be the toughest selling point — getting people to accept responsibility for making those tough decisions.”

Such choices may come as a shock to to Minnesotans’ assumptions about water, said Deborah Swackhamer, co-director of the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota.Elsewhere in the country per-capita water use is declining, but not in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. That, she said, could require hard adjustments. Higher prices for water could result, or more water recycling, or the controversial idea of allowing cities to re-inject treated water back into aquifers.

And the state may have to start saying no.

“Because they can’t keep giving out permits and waiting for the train to crash,” she said.

Josephine Marcotty • 612-673-7394

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