This story basically begins in the summer of 2010 and was dragged on until September 2013 but with the extreme drought in California it was decided to present it now. May it serve as a reminder how important our natural resources are.
Faced with the most extreme drought on record Governor Brown of California declared a “Drought State of Emergency” in January, 2014 and directed California state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. In some parts of the state wells were already dry.
Could a situation similar to that in California ever happen here in Minnesota? With damaging climate changes and other environmental changes occurring in the world anything is possible. And, with only about 2% of the world’s water being considered “fresh water” it’s something that we should think about every day.
A few years ago Excel Energy offered its customers free shower heads because they thought it was a good idea to conserve water, I got one in the mail.
Around that time I also received a free litter bag from Linwood Township, I still use it in my car. Green printing on the white bag said: “reduce, re-use, re-cycle” and underneath that it said “SAVE THE EARTH”.
I was glad to receive the bag and thought that it was great that the township cared about the environment. But I was confused. Confused because I had often strolled the parks near the town hall and had noted that the sprinklers were turned on every day, rain or shine. It didn’t matter if two inches of rain fell over night or not. In fact, one day I walked into the town hall while it was raining (with an umbrella) and asked a town official why the sprinklers were on. That person referred me to a worker who told me that the sprinklers were on because the “water table was low” – then they turned around and walked away. While not taking the subtle snub personally, I thought to myself – “Uh, if the water table is low shouldn’t the government be conserving water?”
Seeing that the daily watering was continuing, I later attended a town board meeting to discuss my concern. At the meeting I asked the town board how many gallons of water was being pumped from the aquifers. I also presented pictures of standing water that I had witnessed in the parks. When I handed the pictures to the supervisor in charge of parks he tossed them aside without looking at them. So much for showing respect, engaging in constructive discussion, and encouraging public involvement.
As the wasteful use of a precious resource continued – and I was about to give up – like I think I was expected to do. But one day I saw that a property nearby was having its well re-drilled. Now, I didn’t know whether the well had gone dry, or what but I was none the less even more concerned so I contacted the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
I wanted to know if the water supply in the area was being threatened. I also wanted to know how many gallons of water Linwood Township was pumping each day. From work experience I knew that any entity using more than 1,000,000 gallons a year needed a permit.
The DNR discovered that Linwood Township had not installed meters to track the amount of water being pumped. So, using data provided by the town engineer, Kate Drewry, North Metro Area Hydrologist for the DNR, calculated that Linwood was pumping 1,747,200 gallons of water per year onto Carroll Broadbent Memorial Park and another 1,466,920 gallons per year onto Four Seasons Park which in all total was three times what was permitted. Both parks were over legal limits and those numbers didn’t include other parks or water that the fire department used.
In order to help protect our ground water supply the DNR informed the Town Clerk that:
1. Linwood had to apply for an After the Fact Permit documenting water appropriations for the previous seven years.
2. Linwood had to apply for a DNR Water Appropriation Permit for future town water appropriations.
3. Linwood had to install meters that record the amount of water appropriated.
The picture included with this article was taken in 2013. During 2014 I did not see the same conditions so it looks as though town officials have taken water conservation more seriously. And thanks goes out to those responsible. If anyone wants more information on this topic they can contact one of the Linwood Township Supervisors or Kate Drewry at Kate.email@example.com.