Minn. proposes to double water fees for top users

  • Associated Press
  • March 28, 2013 - 5:29 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota officials proposed Thursday to essentially double the wholesale price of water for the state's largest users as it seeks to get a better grip on growing demand for groundwater.

The plan by Gov. Mark Dayton and the Department of Natural Resources would increase water fees for more than 7,000 water permit holders statewide that use more than 1 million gallons annually.

The proposal, which needs legislative approval, would raise the cost for 1 million gallons of water from an average of about $7.50 to $15.

"Put another way, the proposal raises the price of water from 0.00075 of a penny per gallon to 0.0015 of a penny per gallon," the DNR said in its announcement.

Jason Moeckel, inventory, monitoring and analysis section manager for the DNR's ecological and water resources division, said a typical homeowner would pay 50 cents to $1 more per year.

"I'm having a hard time finding anybody who says they can't afford 50 cents or $1 or even $2 per year to help make sure water supplies are sustainable," Moeckel said.

A typical farm irrigation bill would go from $140 a year to $500.

"It's going to take a mindset shift in a state that, by and large, most of us think of as a very water-rich state," Moeckel said. "We need to protect that water richness and not use it wastefully and unknowingly."

Minnesota is drawing increasing amounts of water from underground aquifers, while funding for its water regulation programs has fallen. Across more than 70 percent of the state, scientists don't know enough about the aquifers to know how much water can be drawn from them sustainably. The DNR plans to use the added money to map and measure groundwater supplies, and to modernize its permitting system.

Statewide, 75 percent of Minnesotans get their drinking water from groundwater.

"As aquifers and other water supplies are drawn down, we need the best information in order to continue to provide high-quality water supplies," DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said. "This alone won't solve our water sustainability issues, but it is a good start."

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