What is the issue with the White Bear Lake Water Level?
In recent years, WBL has lost 25% of its water surface. The lake hit an all time low water mark in 2013 despite above average precipitation in the last decade. With a 100 year historic rain in 2014 and over 30 inches of rain this year, the lake has not rebounded to normal water levels. The lake has gone up only .40 of an inch since April. The level is 3-4 feet plus below typical water levels.
What is the connection between White Bear Lake and the Prairie du Chien Aquifer (PdC)?
White Bear Lake is uniquely connected to the PdC aquifer, the regional groundwater resource. A 1998 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) study and a USGS Phase One Study of WBL published in 2013 confirm this fact. The studies by these two agencies prove water from WBL naturally flows out of the lake bottom into the aquifer to replenish groundwater levels.
Dramatic growth in the NE metro area has increased pumping from the aquifer by high capacity municipal wells. Groundwater pumping around WBL increased from 1.87 billion gallons in 1980 to 4.57 billion in 2007; and is continuing to increase. This pumping increases the water flow out of WBL to the aquifer below. Isotopic water testing of local city wells finds 50% of the water in some of these wells is from WBL.
What is Augmentation or Supplemental Water Supply?
Augmentation or providing supplemental water to lakes is occurring throughout the US. Providing supplemental water to WBL would entail piping surface water to the lake to raise and then sustain a normal lake level.
Where would the water come from?
The water would come from the St Paul Regional Water System (SPRWS) which uses surface water from the Mississippi River. The SPRWS has an excess capacity of 7 billion gallons of clean water per year, much more than needed annually to augment WBL. The augmentation system would filter the water removing invasive species and phosphorus. The water quality will be as good as or better than current WBL water quality. Using this excess water capacity would not put Mississippi River in peril; the needed water for augmentation is already in the water supply chain.
- There is a mapped route with direct access to WBL of less than four miles from the SPWS supply point. This route has no major highway crossings
- Every drop of water put into WBL would work to either raise the lake level or recharge the aquifer below the lake.
- Two other lakes within five miles of WBL (Snail Lake and Gilfillan Lake) are being successfully augmented with Mississippi river water under DNR permits.
- The Twin Cities metro region has a Federal permit to use up to 10% of the Mississippi’s annual river flow. Currently, the system draws less than 4% of the permitted level.
- Pigs Eye regional wastewater facilities use 2 gallons of groundwater from the aquifer under the eastern metro area each day for every 1 gallon of water we take out of the Mississippi River upstream. This imbalance fills the Mississippi with billions of gallons of groundwater from our aquifer each year.
- Absent Augmentation, the USGS study states that even with average or above average rainfall, WBL lake levels will continue to decline, potentially 4-6 inches per year.
- Without augmentation, continued low water levels will negatively impact the environmental health of the lake. Low water levels lead to accelerated mill foil growth, invasive species gaining footholds, larger and more frequent algae blooms, shore line degradation and increased shoreline vegetation drawing water from the lake.
Without augmentation, access to the regional asset of White Bear Lake will continue decline. The county beach has been closed since 2007. Ramsey County officials measuring lake levels this fall have noted no change in lake level so closure of the regional beach will continue into the future. Boat ramps must be dredged and surrounding shoreline weeds cut for continued public boat access. Marina business is down 60%. Public fishing piers are severely impaired or closed. A whole generation of local residents, visitors, and tourists, and kids are growing up without ever swimming in or using WBL.
Who Are “Friends of White Bear Lake” (FoWBL)?
Friends of White Bear Lake is a non-profit group focused solely on bringing supplemental water to White Bear Lake to remedy the long standing issue of White Bear Lake low water levels.
FoWBL works to educate and connect local cities and legislators, state wide legislative leaders and committees, and others about the need for recharging White Bear Lake. FoWBL proposes 100% state bonding for the capital costs of the infrastructure necessary for augmentation. Ongoing operating costs for the system are being detailed in a DNR/Met Council study.
FoWBL is a vehicle for people who love White Bear Lake to have their voices heard in the legislative process and demand support for a clean and robust WBL. This is the work of FoWBL. Send your donation to: Friends of White Bear Lake, 4751 Highway 61 North, White Bear Lake, MN 55110 or visit our website for information and donate on line www.fowbl.org