Groundwater Technical Analysis Program
Conduct studies of groundwater availability and groundwater supply; investigate disputes about use of groundwater.
Groundwater is the source of high-quality drinking water for most of the state's communities. Groundwater is used to irrigate crops, thus increasing the value of land and crops in many parts of the state. The Technical Analysis Program studies the availability and use of groundwater. (Learn more about groundwater.)
When water is pumped from the ground for use, it has to come from somewhere. Water levels in wells may go down, there may be less streamflow, less water available for plants, or lower water levels in wetlands or lakes. This means that other users and other resources may be affected when ground water is used. Program hydrologists assess these impacts and evaluate ways to deal with or lessen them. Our clients are citizens, businesses, local units of government, other state agencies, and other parts of DNR. The Well Sealing Program is part of the Technical Analysis Program.
Products and Services
- Groundwater education. The Technical Analysis Program maintains a small library of educational materials for all age levels. It can also loan out one of several sand-filled plexiglass ground water models that make the explanation of groundwater concepts a fun, hands-on exercise. Although time does not permit very many speaking engagements, staff try to accommodate a few per year.
- Groundwater availability assessment. Is there likely to be groundwater available for use in a given area? The hydrologists use geologic maps, records of existing wells, and knowledge of landforms and geologic processes to give advice, in a general sense, on the potential availability of groundwater.
- Groundwater supply studies. Will there be adequate water at a specific site to meet a specific need? The technical analysis program takes groundwater availability information and adds information from test hole drilling, use of geophysics, and onsite reconnaissance work to create a more detailed picture of the groundwater situation in response to a proposed project. It is critical that this work be done very early in the project planning process because groundwater may not be available in the quantities needed for the planned operation or, if available, its use may interfere with other users of water in the area. Minimization of water needs through water conservation is always advisable and may allow a project to proceed without impacts on other users or resources.
- Special studies. The Technical Analysis Workgroup summarizes major work efforts in technical reports. These reports vary widely in topic and are presented here to make them available to the widest possible audience. Shallow Buried Aquifers of Murray County
- Calcareous fen studies. Calcareous Fens are Minnesota's rarest type of wetland. They are protected by law because they provide habitat for many species of rare and threatened plants. The Technical Analysis Workgroup is been involved in several inhouse and contract studies, the results of which will be posted here as they become available.
- Well interference investigations. Increases in groundwater use may affect other well owners nearby. In some cases, wells that were previously adequate can no longer produce enough water to meet domestic needs even though the aquifer could be expected to provide enough water for all of the users in the area. Complaints about others' use of groundwater are first reported to the DNR area hydrologist, who may ask the technical analysis program to conduct an investigation. A well driller is first asked to inspect the well so that it is certain that well maintenance needs are not the problem. The Technical Analysis Program hydrogeologists will then collect the hydrogeologic information needed to determine the cause of the lower water levels. The Water Appropriation Permit Program will assist the well owners in coming to a fair and reasonable resolution to their well interference problem, which frequently involves well improvements. The Well Interference Resolution Process details all the steps taken in such an investigation and provides necessary forms.
- Water use conflicts. These disputes are similar to well interferences, and are investigated as above. The main difference is that in the end it is found that the aquifer cannot supply enough groundwater for all who wish to use it. In this case, the Water Appropriation Permit Program will consider permit restrictions based on the user's priority, water conservation measures, and well improvements. The Technical Analysis Program may continue to assist by evaluating alternative water supply sources.
- Aquifer tests and pumping tests. During many of the groundwater investigations described above, it becomes necessary to pump wells under controlled conditions to find out exactly what happens. Sometimes the test is conducted to find out what the characteristics of the aquifer are; sometimes the test is conducted to find out the impacts of pumping a specific well on specific resources. The Technical Analysis Program conducts many such tests every year.
- Groundwater Modeling. Groundwater models are tools used to predict what might happen if given changes to the groundwater regime are permitted. First, an attempt is made to mimic the present conditions. Once that is reliably done, then different scenarios can be investigated. One might try to determine how much water can be pumped in a given hydrogeologic setting without affecting a groundwater-fed resource. If there are several ways to design the project, all could be modeled, and the one with the least predicted impact could be chosen.
- Groundwater Mining. Groundwater is considered a renewable resource unless it is used faster than it can be replenished. Groundwater mining refers to the use of more groundwater than is recharged over a long period of time (a decade perhaps). The Technical Analysis Program and the Observation Well Program cooperate to monitor water levels in potential ground water mining situations. As in the case of water use conflicts, solutions include permit restrictions, water conservation, and alternative water supplies.
- Groundwater-Surface water investigations. Groundwater withdrawals can decrease water levels and decrease flow in springs, streams, lakes and wetlands. Such impacts usually take a much longer time to become evident than do water level changes within the pumped aquifer itself. Thus, this type of investigation usually takes more than one season to conduct. The program installs equipment to monitor water level and climate data. In addition, the program staff conduct hydrogeologic assessments of the connection between the surface water feature and the aquifer. Trout streams and calcareous fens are examples of valued resources the DNR strives to protect from inadvertent drainage because of groundwater pumping.
- Pollution confinement pump-outs. Contaminated groundwater is sometimes pumped out of the ground as part of a clean-up project. The Technical Analysis Program evaluates such projects before the water appropriation permit is issued to determine if the project can proceed as proposed without affecting other water users or resources. Monitoring requirements for the permit are set if there are any concerns for possible impacts. Monitoring results are evaluated once the project is in operation.
- Environmental Review and Project Evaluations (Groundwater Aspects). Many types of projects have potential groundwater impacts. The Technical Analysis Program reviews and assesses proposals and provides comments to the responsible governmental unit.
- Well Sealing Project. DNR Waters has completed the multi-year effort to locate and seal abandoned wells on the 5 million acres of land that DNR administers. The 1989 Minnesota Ground Water Protection Act required the DNR to seal these wells primarily to prevent groundwater contamination.
See: Final Status Report - October 2007
Contacting Your Local Area Hydrologist. In all cases, the first step toward resolution of a groundwater use problem will be to contact the DNR area hydrologist. He or she may be able to solve your problem promptly or may decide to contact the Technical Analysis Program. Find your local DNR Waters Office using the link below. You may also contact the program personnel listed here.
Steve Thompson – Hydrogeology and Groundwater Unit Supervisor
Jay Frischman – Groundwater Technical Unit Supervisor
BJ Bonin, Hydrogeologist 3, St. Paul
Ellen Considine, Hydrogeologist 3, St. Paul
Tom Kresko, Hydrogeologist 3, Slayton
Scot Johnson, Hydrogeologist 3, Lake City
651-345-5601 ext. 245, firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Pearson, Hydrogeologist 3, St. Paul
Jeanne Ramponi, Hydrogeologist 3, St. Paul
Jennifer Rose, Hydrogeologist 3, Fergus Falls
218-739-7576 ext. 272, email@example.com
James Vanderwaal, Hydrogeologist 3, Spicer
Michele Walker, Hydrogeologist 3, Bemidji
Keylor Andrews, Hydrologist 2, St. Paul
Glen Champion, Hydrogeologist 3, St. Paul
Danny Cronquist, Hydrogeologist 1, St. Paul
Linse Lahti, Hydrologist 2, St. Paul