DNR releases plan for sustainable groundwater use in Little Rock Creek area

Following two years of input and review from residents, irrigators and local government, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources today released the Sustainable Use of Groundwater in the Little Rock Creek Area plan. The plan is available at mndnr.gov/littlerock

The plan includes a variety of actions over the next five years, designed to ensure a sustainable groundwater supply while protecting Little Rock Creek, a designated trout stream in central Minnesota. The DNR’s initial focus will be collecting and analyzing more data to determine if any changes in groundwater use are needed.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the DNR will not change existing water appropriation permits, including “limited” permits, through 2022. This decision is intended to give current groundwater permit holders as much certainty as possible. “Limited” permits are usually issued for shorter time periods than other groundwater permits.

“Groundwater is vital to the economy and people of the Little Rock Creek area,” DNR project manager Mark Hauck said. “This new management plan underscores that importance. The DNR is working with local residents and businesses to make sure groundwater remains available for drinking, irrigation, livestock production, and habitat.”

DNR action steps for the next five years include:

  • Collecting more data on groundwater, stream flow and fish habitat.
  • Working with farmers to get a more accurate accounting of how much groundwater they are using.
  • Analyzing how groundwater use patterns are affecting Little Rock Creek.
  • Establishing a protected flow for Little Rock Creek (the amount of water needed in the stream to maintain habitat and water quality).
  • Identifying water conservation strategies for more efficient groundwater use.

The DNR will continue to inform affected residents and businesses about groundwater management actions through the DNR website, email, and at least one public meeting per year. The DNR will update the action plan in 2022.

The Little Rock Creek area straddles northwestern Benton and southern Morrison counties. More than 95 percent of estimated water use in the area is for cropland irrigation.