Straight River Groundwater Management Area (GWMA)

images of locations within the Straight River Groundwater Management Area

Minnesotans value water and recognize water is essential to our quality of life. In the Straight River Area near Park Rapids, MN groundwater remains a critically important natural resource. It supports irrigated agriculture and related businesses that use water for agricultural product processing. It provides drinking water for most of the area’s residents. Groundwater also flows into and supports surface waters in the area, including many lakes and wetlands and the Straight River, an important public recreation area and cold-water trout stream.

The DNR remains committed to managing the state’s water resources to sustain healthy streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater resources. The DNR plays an important role in supporting sustainable groundwater use through its permit programs, information collection and analysis activities, education, technical assistance opportunities and law enforcement responsibilities.

In 2017, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) established the Straight River Groundwater Management Area (SRGWMA) and approved an action plan that ensures that groundwater use within the SRGWMA is sustainable.

Action plan

The SRGWMA plan lays out five broad objectives with specific actions the DNR will take to ensure that use of groundwater remains sustainable within the area. An important focus is to continue collecting and analyzing information to determine whether total permitted groundwater use is or is not having a negative impact on aquifers, lakes, streams or wetlands.

The plan was developed over two years with the help of an internal DNR project team and an advisory team of external stakeholders that included representatives from local government, industry, agriculture, other state agencies and local interest groups. The DNR continues to work with individuals, communities and businesses as we make this determination and as we implement this 5-year action plan.

DNR plan objectives

Aquifers, ecosystems and surface waters

Groundwater use in the GWMA does not harm aquifers and ecosystems, and does not negatively impact surface waters.

  • The DNR will improve monitoring of groundwater levels, basin water levels, stream flows, climate; groundwater associated biological communities and water use within the GWMA to inform the DNR permit decisions.
  • The DNR will continue to build a comprehensive hydrological and climate monitoring system for the GWMA. The DNR will coordinate with federal, state, and local agencies in these efforts.
  • The DNR will continue to improve information on water use within the GWMA.
  • The DNR will develop and apply sustainability limits for aquifers, ecosystems and surface waters in the GWMA.
  • The DNR groundwater appropriation permits will integrate sustainability limits, individual and cumulative permit analysis, and will include evaluation of existing permits within the GWMA.
  • The DNR will communicate the status of this objective.
  • The DNR will improve access to data collected and analyzed by other organizations in the GWMA.
  • The DNR will promote groundwater recharge in the GWMA, consistent with sound water quality management.

Jump to the Aquifers, Ecosystems and Surface Waters section of the Straight River GWMA Plan (76 pages).

Water conservation

Groundwater use in the GWMA is reasonable, efficient, and complies with water conservation requirements.

  • The DNR will ensure that groundwater users are complying with water conservation requirements in their water supply plans and permits.
  • The DNR will improve communication about and promote the values of water conservation in the GWMA.
Jump to the Water Conservation section of the Straight River GWMA Plan (76 pages).
Water quality

Groundwater use in the GWMA does not degrade water quality.

  • The DNR will include compliance with local, state, and federal water quality regulations as permit conditions.
  • The DNR will ensure that permitted appropriations do not degrade water quality by moving known contaminants.
Jump to the Water Quality section of the Straight River GWMA Plan (76 pages).
Well interferences and water use conflicts

Groundwater use in the GWMA does not create unresolved well interferences or water use conflicts.

Jump to the Well Interferences and Water Use Conflicts section of the Straight River GWMA Plan (76 pages).

Groundwater permits

All groundwater users in the GWMA have the necessary permits to use groundwater.

  • The DNR will improve its capacity to detect unpermitted groundwater use.
  • The DNR will ensure that permitted volumes reflect actual use and use does not exceed permitted volumes.
  • The DNR will ensure that water users comply with conditions on appropriation permits.
Jump to the Groundwater Permits section of the Straight River GMWMA Plan (76 pages).

Project updates

  • February Straight River GWMA meeting (more information to come)

What you can do

Conserve water

Straight River GWMA maps and data

GWMA maps and data

areas within the Straight River Groundwater Management AreaBoundary of Straight River GWMA

2020 Irrigated Acres in the Straight River GWMA2020 irrigated acres in the Straight River GWMA

GWMA water use

As of November 2020, groundwater use within the SRGWMA totals around 5 billion gallons annually from 238 active water-appropriation permits. The total authorized volume for groundwater and surface water as of November 2020, was 10,796.9 million gallons and the latest total volume used reported was 4,799.1 MGY in 2019. Surface water authorizations from the Fishhook and Straight Rivers accounts for 76.5 million gallons or 0.68% of all SRGWMA authorizations. 

Water Use and Active Permits within the SRGWMAWater use1 and active permits within the SRGWMA.2

1 Water use reports are due by February 15 of the following year; therefore, 2020 water use data was not available at the time this report was completed.

2 Minnesota Permitting and Reporting System (MPARS) electronic water use records date back to 1988.

As of November 2020, there were 238 active water appropriation permits within the SRGWMA with the following use type classifications and associated water use.

  • Agricultural irrigation – is the major use type with 220 permits accounting for 90% of the authorized volume for all permit types, which corresponds to 9,692.1 million gallons applied to an authorized 26,817 acres.
  • Agricultural/food processing - 2 permits with an authorized volume of 628 million gallons.
  • Municipal water supply– 1 permit with an authorized volume of 245 million gallons.
  • Golf course irrigation – 4 permits with a total authorized volume of 177.5 million gallons.
  • Other – This water use type has an authorized total of 54.3 million gallons annually from the following three groups that are combined together in Figure 3 due to their minimal overall volume compared to other water use types:
    • Landscaping/athletic field irrigation – 5 permits with a total authorized volume of 45.9 million gallons.
    • Livestock watering – 5 permits with a total authorized volume of 6.4 million gallons.
    • Fire protection water supply – 1 permit with an authorized volume of 2.0 million gallons.
GWMA biological communities

Straight River - The stream flows of the Straight River and its headwaters are strongly influenced by groundwater contributions, and the health of this stream is dependent upon a steady supply of groundwater. These streams provide habitat for a unique community of animals, including invertebrate groups such as midges, caddis flies, stoneflies, and mayflies, several mussel species, and several fish species including trout. Changes in groundwater flow to these trout streams due to pumping are an important consideration in determining whether use is remaining sustainable.

trout stream and brown trout

Lakes and wetlands - The Straight River GWMA is rich in surface water features – streams, lakes and wetlands. Water levels and/or chemistries of many of the lakes, streams and wetlands are strongly influenced by groundwater or have at least some hydraulic connection to the regional groundwater system. Many lakes, streams and wetlands, therefore, may be affected by changes in groundwater elevations.

Rare and natural animals, plants and communities - Rare natural features contribute to the health of the habitat and environment that surrounds us. Some even contribute directly to local economies in the form of outdoor recreation, such as wildlife viewing, camping, hunting and fishing. Rare features can include species of unique plants and animals, as well as native plant communities.  There are many rare and uncommon plants, animals and plant communities in the Straight River GWMA. The majority of the rare vegetative features are concentrated in two distinct areas. One surrounds Big Rush Lake in Becker County and the other one is along the headwaters of the Straight River in Becker County.

The communities associated with groundwater and seepages are dominated by large forested rich peatland complexes, consisting of four different plant communities. One of these, the white cedar swamp, is vulnerable to extirpation while the other three are considered fairly secure. There are five different open peatlands, one imperiled, one vulnerable to extirpation, and the rest considered fairly secure. There are two wet forest communities, one vulnerable to extirpation while the other is considered relatively secure. There are two wet meadow communities, both considered secure. Additionally, there is a wet-mesic to mesic northern hardwood forest that is vulnerable to extirpation.

Jump to the Rare Natural Features section of the Straight River GWMA Plan (76 pages).

GWMA water quality

Project Manager: 
Darrin Hoverson - GWMA
104 Park Ave N, Suite 203
Park Rapids, MN 56470
[email protected]


Send questions and comments to [email protected]

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