Groundwater in the VLAWMO Watershed

The VLAWMO watershed is primarily served by private wells drawing from bedrock of the Saint Peter Sandstone and Prairie du Chein-Jordan aquifers. Domestic wells typically draw from the uppermost aquifer. While large supplies of ground water exist in our region, it is still finite and sensitive to contamination from improper waste disposal, poor well construction, maintenance and/or sealing, and poor water conservation habits. Check out the resources on this page to learn more about the groundwater in our watershed and how to take care of it.

VLAWMO provides education and collaborates with local and state agencies on the topic of groundwater, but is not involved in municipal water distribution, water supply infrastructure, or billing. Please contact your local municipality with questions regarding information and resources on residential and commercial water use.

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Image: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Seeing groundwater like a bank:

Much of the water we use for everyday life is hidden.

Similar to finances, groundwater has many deposits doing their work out of sight. Like a bank account, groundwater can be storing water deposits from days, years, or even decades or more. But both a bank account and a source of water have their limits. One thing that makes groundwater unique is that its shared and influenced in a more direct and interdependent way.

Water professionals help us check on our groundwater “bank” but Cities, Townships, schools, home owner associations, faith-based groups, and everyday folks are key to maintaining our water budget. Residents and businesses can help support our groundwater by reducing excess water use, reflecting on water use habits, paying attention to regional water reports and updates, and exploring tools to help learn more and try new things.

Download the Twin Cities Groundwater Digest to learn more on how groundwater works and how communities in the Twin Cities Metro affect it.

Why we work for a better water footprint:

A small water footprint helps maintain supplies at safe levels, protecting human health and the environment. Sometimes groundwater challenges still have abundant groundwater, but issues arise with changes in the rate, accessibility, and costs associated with using that water. These changes can require careful discussions in budgeting, risk management, and community planning to match the quality of water with an intended use.

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Examples of groundwater challenges

Examples of groundwater challenges include:

  • Changes on the landscape that can influence how and where groundwater recharges.
  • Well interference that can change aquifer pressures locally or regionally, contaminating wells with increased sediment or metals.
  • Legacy contaminants from former dump sites, new contaminants from improper chemical use.
How groundwater conservation helps the community

Efforts to conserve water and create water smart habits help the community by:

  • Preserving adequate water for emergency uses such as firefighting and hospital use.
  • Buffering the impacts of climate-related drought.
  • Reducing public health risks such as higher concentrations of natural and human pollutants that come with lower water levels.
  • Reducing competition and conflicts around water by reducing regional demand.
  • Reducing need for expensive water treatment projects to transport and store freshwater.
  • Keeping water available for lakes, rivers, and streams that are used for recreation and wildlife.
  • Building neighborly habits that protect future water access.
  • Preserving water for drinking water supply.

Tools for water conservation:

A starter guide for habits that are good for water resources and courteous to neighbors. The key to water conservation is staying creative in the process while keeping the topic active with friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

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Irrigation and Yard Tips

Irrigation and Yard Tips

  • Water in the early morning to reduce evaporation. Water deeply to help encourage deep, resilient root growth.
  • Strive for just 1” of water per week, accounting for rainfall. If turf is dormant, just 1/2" per week is sufficient to keep the turf roots alive until wet conditions return. It is better for turf to stay in dormancy in a dry period rather than go in and out of dormancy multiple times. 
  • Expect lawn needs to change as rain patterns and seasons change.
  • Consider letting turf go dormant in late summer as this is a regular part of the annual cycle for most conventional turf grasses.
  • Aim sprinklers so that water doesn’t land on paved surfaces. Fix stray sprinklers or seek help so that it doesn’t get neglected.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean sidewalks, driveways, and steps. If you must use a hose, strive to use it for a rinse after sweeping.
  • Prioritize root growth more than green color. Maintaining a 3” or more mowing height helps develop deeper, more robust root systems that will be greener and more resilient and require less watering in the dry summer months. A better root system and higher standing vegetation also helps crowd out weeds, cover bare soil, and reduce the need for external products.
Irrigation and Yard Tools

Irrigation and Yard Tools

  • Water with sprinklers that spray in a stream rather than a high mist.
  • Try a rain gauge. Never under estimate the power of this simple tool for staying sharp and aware of the latest precipitation.
  • Try a smart irrigation controller. Soil moisture irrigation controllers transmit a soil moisture reading to the irrigation controller. Watering sessions on a timer are skipped if soil moisture level is adequate. Weather-based irrigation controllers use local weather data to adjust the irrigation schedule. This can reference on-site weather measurements or public meteorological data, and often combines temperature, wind, solar radiation, and humidity.

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In-Home Water Tips

In-Home Water Tips

  • Install one or more rainbarrels for outdoor watering.
  • Practice composting food scraps at home while reducing garbage disposal use.
  • Try swapping a shower for a partially filled tub.
  • Avoid running the faucet freely when brushing teeth, shaving, washing. vegetables, or rinsing dishes.
  • Use dishwashers and washing machines when the load is full.
  • Check pipes, faucets, and toilets for leaks annually.
  • Keep pitchers of cold water in the fridge to reduce time spent running and cooling water.
  • Switch to spot washing the car or pull the car on the grass for bigger washes.
  • Monitor water usage on your water bill and build habits such as setting water reduction goals for the next billing cycle.

Image: Pond5 AtlasStudio

In-Home Water Tools

In-Home Water Tools

  • Low flow shower heads.
  • Shower timers.
  • Thermostatic shower valves.
  • Faucet aerators.
  • Toilet leak detection tablets.
  • Toilet fill cycle diverters and dual flush devices.
  • Try a “toilet tummy” by placing a 24-oz plastic bottle filled with water in the toilet tank. This displaces some of the water in the tank and reduces the amount of water used in each flush.
  • Look for the EPA Water Sense label for home appliances that use water: dishwashers, washing machines, spray valves, faucets, sprinklers, toilets, and irrigation controllers.

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Landscaping for Smart Water Use

Landscaping with Groundcovers, Raingardens, and Native Plants

  • Plant drought resistant native plants, shrubs, and trees to steer the default yard towards a water-friendly one.
  • Check out VLAWMO's Practical Plantings Guide for ideas on plants that can be used for turf replacement and groundcovers that require less irrigation once established.
  • Consider a dry creek or raingarden to better harness and retain stormwater runoff where you need it and to help recharge groundwater.

Resources for staying up to date:

Local groundwater learning:

Groundwater is both a large-scale and highly localized topic. For detailed information on groundwater in your area, see the atlas plates provided from the Minnesota Groundwater Atlas.

More info from affiliates:

Minnesota’s groundwater is monitored and managed by several State agencies from the Minnesota Department of Public Health to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency among others.