It’s National Groundwater Awareness Week!
Here at VLAWMO, groundwater is typically a larger topic reserved for Ramsey Conservation District, State, and Federal agencies due to the much wider area that aquifers cover. However we have a few resources to share and a shallow groundwater monitoring project we’ve recently undertaken.
In 2016 the United States Geological Survey (USGS) issued the second in a 3-part series or reports that compares local lake levels and groundwater levels in the Northeast Metro. Findings show that White Bear, Pleasant, Turtle, and Big Marine Lakes are likely to have groundwater and lake-water exchanges. In White Bear Lake, groundwater seepage has been measured higher near the shore opposed to in deep water. The report with the abstract summary can be found here on the USGS website.
The Ramsey Conservation District also issues a groundwater protection plan for Ramsey County, which was last updated in 2010. A few key concepts we draw from this County plan are areas at risk of contamination, strategies allocated to Cities and organizations like VLAWMO, as well as information on regional net water use. According to the plan, “Ramsey County is the only county in Minnesota that uses more groundwater than infiltrates back to the groundwater within the boundaries of the county.” This is largely due to Ramsey County’s dense population and small size. Compared to clean-up costs after a contamination incident, prevention, careful planning, and wise use of the resource, as well as early detection, are cost-effective and straight-forward ways to protect our groundwater. Find the entire plan here on the Ramsey County website.
Other local resources include the MN DNR's groundwater management plan, and an interactive state-wide watershed map. On this map, a leaf icon on the left displays the data that can be viewed. Hydrologic alterations, groundwater vulnerability, soil, wetland health, and much more can be seen for your neighborhood or favorite Minnesota places.
VLAWMO and Groundwater
In VLAWMO’s own water plan, eight strategies are listed for supporting groundwater, which is our priority issue #2. Goal 2-1 states “VLAWMO seeks to recharge shallow groundwater through technical programs (cost share, capital improvement projects) by means of infiltration, and for the preservation of deep groundwater aquifers also by technical programs by supporting projects that reduce the need for irrigation (native and prairie restorations, stormwater reuse). We also do this by working with partners to establish water consumption and usage goals. Education and outreach efforts help increase the understanding and management of our water supply, as well as promote water conservation. Find the VLAWMO water plan here.
In March of 2015, VLAWMO installed three shallow groundwater wells in Columbia Park in White Bear Township. The three wells were aligned with a storm water pipe that outlets to Whitaker Pond, which then leads to Lambert Creek and into Vadnais Lake. The wells were dug to test for E. coli contamination in the shallow aquifer, and to monitor shallow groundwater levels at that site. Results showed that despite E. coli being detected in the surface water at Whitaker Pond, contamination was not found in any of the three shallow groundwater wells during sampling. Sampling occurred in six rounds between April and October of 2015. Shallow groundwater levels in these 3 wells have also fluctuated in correlation to precipitation.
At this time VLAWMO is no longer monitoring the shallow groundwater for E. coli, but still monitors the groundwater level. Our efforts for E. coli treatment are being directed to the new Whitaker Treatment Wetlands Project, which is a new study in treating E. coli before it gets into Lambert Creek.
Groundwater Management at the Surface
While VLAWMO refers to other organizations as a primary resource on groundwater policies, our on-the-ground projects (raingardens, infiltration basins, etc.) and wetland protections are essential to long-term, secure groundwater. Learn about how you can help our groundwater by checking out our grant programs or attending one of our upcoming Spring workshops.
For more on Groundwater Awareness Week and private well testing, visit the National Groundwater Association website.