Water Sustainability—Is it important and where are we?

More than Groundwater ! Jim Stark– US Geological Survey

U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey

A Work in Progress-- a Collaborative Effort
James Stark, Melinda Erickson, Dave Lorenz and Tim Cowdery-USGS Jason Moeckel, Greg Kruse, Jeanette Leete, Princesa Van Buren-Hansen, Ian ChisholmDNR Ali Elhassan, Layna Ross- Metropolitan Council Chris Elvrum- MDH Dale Setterholm- MGS Deborah Swackhamer–UM Kristen Blann– TNC Gene Merriam, Pat Sweeney, Joan Nephew- Freshwater Society Stephen Thompson, Andrew Streitz-MPCA
U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey

Summary points
Minnesota has a unique opportunity now to ensure sustainable water for the future Much has been done--the foundation is in place Missing pieces are being put together Groundwater and surface water are a single resource Water Budgets: As critical as fiscal budgets! We need to understand water demands and budgets (flows) as well as water in storage

Water Sustainability What do we mean?
Protect ecosystems supply and recreation Protect water quality and quantity Ensuring adequate water for the future
“Using water without causing future problems”

Photo taken by Vicki Christensen

Water Sustainability– Should we Worry?
Yes--we face growing demand and competition for water sustainability means more than providing adequate supplies for human needs

Water supports agriculture, wetlands, wildlife and urban areas

Sustainable water management means accounting for water used as well as water to support streams and lakes

Like our fiscal budgets we need to know revenue (precipitation) and obligations (water needs for humans and the environment)

P + Qin = ET + ∆S + Qout

Ecosystems need to be a Major Consideration in the WaterSustainability Discussion

Biota have a place at the negotiating table

Water Sustainability vs Water Availability Fundamental Concepts
Minnesota has a lot of water available in storage in aquifers, lakes and rivers—However, it is not usable on a sustainable basis! Groundwater overuse becomes newsworthy when it affects lakes and streams (White Bear Lake) Groundwater and surface water are a single interconnected resource (We have to consider them together) We need to preserve clean groundwater for streams and lakes (biota/supply/waste assimilation/recreation)

Water Sustainability vs Water Availability Simple Illustration

Water Sustainability is important and complex, but is defined for us
Will we know if we get there?

We should…
Many recent efforts in past 5 years:
Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan-- UM 2008 ELOHA process– The Nature Conservancy Water Is Life: Freshwater Society 2008 Managing for Water Sustainability--EQB 2008 Developing a GW Management Process-- UM/Freshwater Society 2009 Various publications on GW/SW– Shmagin et. al Developing a GW Management Plan—UM/Freshwater Society 2009 Protection of the State’s SW/GW Resources, MDNR 2010 Models and Tools for GW Availability and Sustainability, MDNR, 2012 Minnesota Water Plan, 2010 (EQB)

We can now move forward……….
Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment provides the charge…….. UM Sustainability Framework provides the roadmap…….

What Does the Framework suggest?
Preserve clean water Understand water budgets–like our finances—define sustainability Using water budgets in the appropriation permit process Recognize and address the interconnected nature of water: Ecological needs Drinking water Industry and agriculture Downstream needs Water quality Recreation

Many of the Tools and Data Exist
County Geologic Atlas Program (MGS-DNR) County Well Index for GW data--MGS, Health, DNR Water use data/appropriation process– DNR Real-time stream flow networks: USGS, DNR, local GW monitoring Water quality assessments: MPCA, USGS, MDH, MDA Water pollution load monitoring network– MPCA State-wide water quality/time series data systems-MPCA, DNR Ecological flow programs- DNR, TNC Stream biotic health programs– MPCA, DNR, USGS
The foundation of resource management is good data

Other needed steps are underway?

Better understanding of groundwater recharge (revenue) Enhance stream flow and groundwater information Define sustainable resources in light of available supplies through water accounting

Together these steps will allow us to quantify water budgets define available water-> determine sustainable water

P + Qin = ET + ∆S + Qout

What’s left to be done?

If models are to be used to address the future then field monitoring should be used to evaluate the models on a periodic basis

Ecologists, hydrologists and managers need to agree how to:
Quantify water budgets statewide Preserved flow variability in streams for ecological needs Preserve low flow for in-stream and downstream needs Determine availability and sustainability ratios (water budgets) Apply adaptive management (use the blue water wisely)

Water for sustained withdrawal

Natural stream flow

Summary points
Minnesota now has a unique opportunity to ensure sustainable water GW and SW are one resource The foundation is in place to ensure sustainable water The missing pieces are being put together We should not wait for all the analysis to be complete Water accounting is the critical step in the process

We are ready to do more than put out fires
Thanks for your attention stark@usgs.gov

From a sustainability perspective, the key point is that decisions today may not be fully realized for many years