There are few resources more critical to the well-being of Dakota County and its residents both now and in the future than the county’s drinking water supply.

Yet it was this very water supply that was threatened by a recent request to pump and ship hundreds of millions of gallons of groundwater from Dakota County to southwestern states like Arizona.

Empire Builder Investments, the real estate arm of Progressive Rail, sought approval in October from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to install two pumps on 6 acres in southern Dakota County. Under the scheme, the pumps would have tapped our deepest aquifer, extracted up to 500 million gallons of groundwater annually, and then shipped it by rail using Water Train, an Oregon-based company currently providing water to agencies in Colorado, Utah and Arizona.

This request to export groundwater is unprecedented in Minnesota history.

The Dakota County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose this exportation of water for several reasons, not the least of which is that Dakota County may face water issues of our own over the next two decades.

We appreciate that the request to export our groundwater was met with a similarly icy reception at the DNR, which makes the final decision. Thank you to DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen in particular, for issuing a statement stating the DNR saw “virtually no scenario” under which the agency would grant a water appropriation permit for this sort of project.

This being said, it is our understanding that another, modified application is in the works that will again seek to export groundwater from Dakota County to southwestern states.

With about 90% of Dakota County residents relying on groundwater as their primary drinking water source, whether from municipal or private wells, this has us deeply concerned.

Dakota County’s population is expected to grow by more than 12% to nearly 500,000 residents by 2030, with greater demand placed on a limited resource, particularly in the most populated areas of the county. At heightened risk of water depletion, according to our groundwater studies, are cities such as Inver Grove Heights, Eagan and Apple Valley, as well as rural parts of Dakota County — areas and residents we represent on the County Board.

Thus, our holiday wish list this year includes three requests.

First, to the DNR, please continue to oppose these shortsighted schemes to export groundwater.

Next, to legislators, please update state laws to provide more local control over groundwater-tapping schemes like this, in light of the potentially dire consequences for local communities and their residents.

Finally, to Empire Builder Investments, Water Train and Arizona, you can have all the snow from our driveways you want, just keep your hands off our groundwater.


Joe Atkins, of Inver Grove Heights, and Mike Slavik, of Hastings, serve on the Dakota County Board of Commissioners.