Rising groundwater demand in Bonanza Valley prompts new state approach

Groundwater demand in an area of central Minnesota has increased by 175 percent in the past 25 years — five times as much as the state average, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

The Department of Natural Resources is taking a new approach to groundwater management in three areas.

That’s a big reason the Bonanza Valley, an area that stretches from southern Douglas County to Paynesville in Stearns County, is one of three areas in which the DNR is setting up a groundwater management area. These test areas aim to study how groundwater is being used, identify any problems with its quality and determine whether to place restrictions on pumping.

Beneath the Surface: Minnesota’s Pending Groundwater Challenge

The area is mostly rural, and most of the 15 billion gallons pumped in 2012 were used to irrigate corn, soybean and potato crops.

The DNR is holding a meeting tonight next week in Belgrade to kick off the planning process for the groundwater management area.

“There are a couple of concerns we have about the long-term sustainability of our groundwater resources. One is the use of groundwater, which has increased significantly over the past 25 years. The other is groundwater quality,” said Mark Hauck, a community assistance specialist with the DNR who is organizing the meeting.

Nitrates from fertilizing crops are getting into groundwater, which could threaten drinking water supplies, DNR officials said.

Tonight’s   The Jan. 29 meeting takes place at 6 p.m. at Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa High School in Belgrade. The meeting had been scheduled for tonight but was postponed because of weather.

The two other pilot groundwater management areas are being set up in the north and east metro and in the Park Rapids area.