FAIRMONT – According to information provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the state has now entered a drought warning phase. This is because 52 percent of Minnesota is currently experiencing severe drought, including Martin County, while four percent of the state is experiencing extreme drought.
According to the DNR, the drought alert phase occurs when a significant part of the state exceeds severe drought thresholds in major watersheds. This threshold has been reached.
The warning phase for public water providers using the Mississippi River is also triggered when stream flows in the Twin Cities metropolitan area have fallen below designated levels. This threshold should be crossed in the coming days. Thresholds for drought watch and warning conditions are specified in the Minnesota Statewide Drought Plan, which can be viewed on the DNR website.
In late June, local farmer Wanda Patsche noted that local crops were at a crossroads, saying they were in danger of deteriorating. Although there have been a few rainy episodes since then, the situation remains uncertain.
“I think the seed technology is so much better now than it was before” Patsche said at the time. “I think he can tolerate it more than he could in the past. The technology is really built into the seed.
“So that’s where it’s important. We certainly need those crops to feed the farm animals, so it’s indirect.
MNR says 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 replenished more efficiently by multiple rainfall events than by a single heavy rainfall event. Surface water and groundwater react somewhat differently over time.
However, the DNR also notes that drought is a natural 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. The most severe drought in Minnesota is short-lived, but drought in Minnesota sometimes falls under the classification of extreme intensity.
“MNR takes the drought seriously. We have a solid plan in place, strong partnerships statewide and continue to take action to respond to the current situation, ” said MNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “We understand that people see the impacts of drought in their daily lives and worry about water levels and availability.
“Although occasional fluctuations in water level are natural, normal and beneficial to ecosystems, they can negatively affect tourism and recreation, agriculture, businesses and other water-dependent activities. Periods of drought remind us all of the importance of conserving water.
Lakes, streams and rivers depend on how much precipitation an area receives, how much moisture is brought in by runoff, how much water is recharged or released to groundwater, and how much water that evaporates.
One area where drought can be very noticeable for the Minnesotans is fluctuating water levels in lakes, rivers and streams,Said Katie Smith, director of MNR’s ecological and water resources division. “What people may not realize is that MNR and other government agencies only manage a relatively small number of lakes and rivers with water control structures, and these operate according to specific management plans. Thus, the vast majority of Minnesota’s waters are subject to natural fluctuations. “