DNR monitoring low water levels amid Minnesota’s drought

Water levels are lower than normal along Minnehaha Creek due in part to this year’s drought. (FOX 9)

Noticing low water levels during the drought?

On Thursday, newly released drought indicators showed more than one-third of the state of Minnesota is considered to be in an extreme drought. The dry weather is having an impact on lakes, rivers and especially streams.

“Droughts are normal,” said Jason Moeckel, who studies and monitors ecological and water resources for the Department of Natural Resources. “Our stream ecosystems have evolved. The fish, the insects that live here, they’ve evolved to adapt to these kinds of conditions.”

Moeckel says he’s noticed lower than normal water levels on Minnehaha Creek this summer and explains that while this summer’s drought likely won’t have long-term impacts on the plants and animals that call the creek home, the drought is still something to keep an eye on.

“If [it] continues through the fall, winter and into next spring, I think we’re going to have some real serious concern particularly for agriculture, particularly for some of our streams,” Moeckel said.

Part of the reason the Minnehaha Creek is seeing lower than normal water levels is because a dam at Gray’s Bay on Lake Minnetonka, the lake that feeds the stream, was closed on July 21 because water levels on Lake Minnetonka reached a low point: 

Moeckel estimates the creek is several inches below where it has been the last few years. In some shallow parts of the creek, the difference between what Moeckel estimates to be the typical water line and the current water line is as wide as 15 feet. In some northern parts of the state, the difference is even more dramatic.

“As you go north of the Twin Cities the flows are even more impacted than some of what we’re seeing here and that’s affecting livelihood and farmers and industry,” Moeckel said.

He says they’re also seeing some water levels change on lakes, especially in the northern part of the state. Lakes are typically slower to respond to drought conditions than creeks and streams.

“A stream like this is going to reflect the early indicator if we haven’t had rain for a while, but it’s also going to respond quickly,” Moeckel said.

Moeckel says as long as the drought doesn’t last several more seasons, the water levels should even back out. He says they’re closely monitoring conditions. but Minnesotans can do their part to ensure the Land of 10,000 Lakes maintains healthy waterways.

“As long as we’re doing things like keeping pollution out of the stream, not wasting water, these streams can bounce back,” he said. 

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