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Minnesota enters into drought warning phase

FAIRMONT — According to information provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the state has now entered a drought warning phase. This is due to the fact that 52 percent of Minnesota is now experiencing severe drought, including Martin County, while four percent of the state is experiencing extreme drought.

According to the DNR, The warning phase for drought occurs when a significant portion of the state passes thresholds for severe drought conditions at major watersheds. That threshold has been reached.

The warning phase for public water suppliers using the Mississippi River is also triggered when stream flows in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area have dropped below designated levels. That threshold is expected to be tripped in the coming days. The thresholds for drought watch and warning conditions are specified in the Minnesota Statewide Drought Plan, which can be found on the DNR’s website.

In late June, local farmer Wanda Patsche noted that local crops were at a cross-road, stating that they were in danger of deterioration. While there have been some rainfall events since then, the situation remains uncertain.

“I think seed technology is so much better now than what it used to be,” Patsche said at the time. “I think it can tolerate it more than what it could in the past. The technology is really built into the seed.

“So that’s where it’s important. We definitely need those crops to feed out livestock animals, so it’s indirect.”

The DNR states that under current conditions, it will take at least three to five inches of precipitation spread over a period of about two weeks to significantly alleviate the drought. Soils are more efficiently replenished by multiple rainfall events than by any single heavy rainfall event. Surface water and groundwater respond somewhat differently over time.

However, the DNR also notes that drought is s a naturally occurring feature of Minnesota’s climate. Some level of moderate and severe drought typically occurs in the state almost every year for at least a few weeks. Most severe drought in Minnesota is short-lived, but drought in Minnesota does occasionally enter the extreme intensity classification.

“DNR is taking the drought seriously. We have a robust plan in place, strong partnerships across the state, and continue to take actions to respond to the current situation,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “We understand that people are seeing the impacts of the drought in their daily lives and have concerns about water levels and availability.

“While occasional water level fluctuations are natural, normal and beneficial to ecosystems, they can negatively affect tourism and recreation, agriculture, businesses and other activities that are dependent on water. Times of drought remind us all about the importance of water conservation.”

Lakes, streams, and rivers are dependent on the amount of precipitation an area receives, how much of that moisture is contributed by runoff, how much water is recharged or discharged through groundwater, and how much water evaporates.

One area in which drought can be very apparent to Minnesotans is the fluctuation of water levels in lakes, rivers and streams,” said Katie Smith, director of DNR’s Ecological and Water Resources division. “What people may not realize is that DNR and other government agencies only manage a relatively small number of lakes and rivers with water control structures, and these operate under specific management plans. So the vast majority of Minnesota’s waters are subject to natural fluctuations.”

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