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Metro Groundwater Planning


In 1987, metropolitan counties were given the authority to prepare and adopt groundwater plans through Minnesota Statutes Chapter 473.8785 (now 103B.255). That provided a mechanism for counties to set priorities, address issues, and build local capacity for the protection and management of groundwater. 

What are implications of groundwater protection and management in the Twin Cities?

This is an important issue in the metropolitan area. Counties in the area have a high reliance on their groundwater for their domestic, municipal, industrial, and agricultural water supplies.

Additionally, the metropolitan area has productive aquifers, but they have limits. Development and urban sprawl have implications on groundwater; counties in the southwestern portion of the metropolitan area have concerns about meeting all of their groundwater needs. 

A number of successes have come out of this planning process. Every county in the metro area has technical groundwater capacity at some level.

Another example is the cooperation between counties. The Metro Area Ground Water Alliance, an association of metropolitan water resource professionals, has been formed through the efforts of county groundwater planners and managers in the seven-county metropolitan area. This association organizes the annual Children’s Water Festival. 

Hennepin County was the first county to begin groundwater planning in 1988, with authority delegated to the Conservation District. Other counties followed shortly after with their planning process. Washington County started in 1989, with the county planning department taking the lead. Dakota and Carver counties began groundwater planning in 1990 and were lead by the county planning departments. Ramsey and Scott Counties began groundwater planning in 1992 and 1993, respectively, with authority delegated to the Soil and Water Conservation Districts. 

The Board of Water and Soil Resources sent information and guidelines to counties for the metropolitan county groundwater plans in early 1990. BWSR awarded matching grants of $15,600 to the six metropolitan counties preparing plans. Metropolitan counties with approved groundwater plans can use matching grants to implement items in their plans. 

Progress report: 

Anoka County, though declining to prepare an official groundwater management plan, has incorporated water management (surface and groundwater) into its authority as a Community Health Services agency to assess and plan for the protection of residents and their environment. The County has collaborated with residents, communities and watershed organizations, to establish: a Water Task Force; a water information website (; a municipal wellhead protection joint powers organization; and the incorporation of water sustainability and protection goals in the County’s Community Health Improvement Plan.  

Carver County’s first groundwater plan was approved in August 1992. In 2001, the county incorporated the groundwater plan into the Carver County WMO Watershed Management Plan. In 2010, the county incorporated some groundwater issues into the Carver County WMO Watershed Management Plan. The county prepared a new groundwater management plan, which was approved by BWSR in 2016, to describe groundwater management goals and actions during the period 2016-2025. The plan can be viewed at:

Dakota County completed its first groundwater plan 1992. An updated plan was approved in July 2000. It included a county groundwater inventory and long-range management goals for groundwater-related issues. In 2006 the county decided to integrate all of its water management objectives, including groundwater protection, in a comprehensive Environment and Natural Resource Management Policy Plan. That plan was recognized by and approved by the BWSR Board as the new county groundwater management plan in October 2006 and it serves as the current county groundwater protection plan. This plan also integrates groundwater management with the other aspects of natural resource, surface water, and waste management. The county is currently beginning the revision of the county comprehensive plan which will form the basis for an updated environmental resource management plan. The revised groundwater protection component of that plan is scheduled to be submitted for BWSR approval in 2018.

Hennepin County’s plan received state approval in March 1994. However the county never formally adopted the plan. Nevertheless, county environmental managers have pursued some of the plan’s objectives, including delineation of wellhead protection areas around public supply wells, applying existing zoning authority to protect groundwater, ranking and management of hazardous land use activities according to risk, and adoption of contingency plans for groundwater supply. The county has no plans to update the 1994 plan.

The first Ramsey Conservation District groundwater management plan was prepared by the Ramsey Conservation District, which has coordinated groundwater planning on behalf of the County since 1992. That plan received BWSR approval in September 1995. It focused on developing programs that cities and other local units of government could use to protect groundwater within their jurisdictions and on creating a framework for coordinating groundwater protection activities among local governments. The Ramsey Conservation District prepared a plan update in 2009 but the county board declined to submit the draft for BWSR approval. In 2016 the district and county staffs have been exploring the possibility of updating the 1995 plan to address recent developments and opportunities in groundwater management.

In Scott Soil and Water Conservation District the Soil and Water Conservation District coordinated groundwater plan development from 1993 until 1997 when the county took over groundwater management. The first groundwater management plan was drafted in 1996, revised extensively in 1998 and finally approved in 1999. Key issues addressed in the plan included feedlot runoff, prevention of contamination by underground storage tanks, enforcement of rules regulating Subsurface Sewage Treatment Systems, hazardous waste facilities, water supply protection, and sealing of abandoned wells. While the 2009 Scott County Watershed Management Organization Plan incorporated some groundwater-related issues, the county has not updated their groundwater plan since 1999.

The second generation Washington County Groundwater Plan received state approval in August 2014 and was adopted by the Washington County Board of Commissioners in September 2014. The Plan is a comprehensive document that lays out the technical framework, issues, policies, and strategies to address existing and future groundwater concerns. The Plan is organized around various issues related to groundwater quality and quantity. Groundwater quantity issues include supply and surface water-groundwater interaction. Groundwater quality issues include source water protection, volatile organic compounds and perfluorochemicals, nutrients/pesticides/road salt, emerging contaminants, septic systems, land spreading, hazardous waste, mining and landfills. While the county will lead implementation of some strategies, for many others they will rely on partnerships with local, regional and state agencies. The 2014 plan also ues the Results Based Accountability framework for measuring progress towards the 70 strategies identified in the Plan. The plan is available at:

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Groundwater Resources

Description of ground and surface water interconnections:

List of wells covered by state water appropriation permits, including the location by geographic indicator, amounts of water appropriated, type of use, and aquifer source:

Contact DNR Waters SWUDS coordinator at
(651) 296-4800 or see DNR Water Use website

Description of known well interference problems and water use conflicts:

Contact DNR local water planning coordinator at
(651) 297-2404 for this information.

Contact DNR Waters Observation Well data manager at (651) 297-3902 for a list of observation wells ocated in the county, including geographic indicator, unique well number, aquifers measured, years of record, and average monthly levels and see web site at:

Contact MPCA 


A summary of available water quality data, including routinely monitored sites.

MPCA GW Monitoring/Assessment Program

MDA Ag Chemical Monitoring/Assessment Program 

MDH Groundwater and Health Info

Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, MN 55155 | (651) 296-3767 | Fax (651) 297-5615 | TTY (800) 627-3529

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