WHITE BEAR LAKE (WCCO) — It’s been mystifying residents and scientists for a number of years: Where is all the water going in White Bear Lake? While there are no simple answers, those studying the problem believe they’ve found a cause — but it won’t be easy to fix.

It seems unlikely in the “land of 10,000 lakes” that we’d even talk about the need to conserve water. But since 1980, the amount of water being pumped from the ground in the north metro has more than doubled, and that’s having a big impact on one popular recreational lake.

White Bear Lake’s water level is down over five feet from its average and showing no sign of reversing course.

“Yes, it’s come up from the record low but it’s really going down again,” explained Perry Jones, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS is busy crunching 30 years of precipitation and lake level data to see what’s causing White Bear’s incredible drop. What they’ve found is a link between low precipitation and high groundwater use.

“We saw there was basically a doubling of the amount of water being extracted and it’s all coming from the Prairie du Chains and Jordan aquifers that lie under White Bear Lake,” said Jones.

Municipal and industrial pumping from the two major aquifers is happening faster than nature can recharge them. Making matters worse is the fact that drought conditions since 2003 have starved the lake of badly needed runoff. The lake’s watershed is among the smallest, meaning it needs to capture all the rainfall and snowmelt it can to maintain healthy water levels. But when the aquifers lying just underneath the lakebed begin dropping, so too does the lake above.

“Groundwater and precipitation all have an effect on it,” says area resident, Bill Mample.

Mample lived here his entire life and while he doesn’t like what he’s been seeing, he remains optimistic the lake will come back!

“Yes, I believe it will. They’ve been reporting that we need above normal precipitation,” said Mample.

There is no magic bullet to quickly turn it around, but it will increase pressure on the state and municipalities to develop more sustainable water use standards. So, get used to hearing about conservation and low flow valves.

Bill Hudson

Comments (11)
  1. Just let it dry up. says:

    Bureaucratic BS at its best.

    1. Larry Dentz says:

      you sound like another republican jerk

  2. MOM says:

    conserving EVERY resource is the answer to so many of our problems

  3. Jaque says:

    Maybe the lake is fine and the land is rising?

  4. Whatever says:

    It’s weird that the other local lakes that are part of this reservoir are just fine….

    1. Swamp Fox says:

      Why didn’t you listen or follow this story. This has been an ongoing problems for years and people didn’t really think about the draining by overuse of the aquifer. Certain lakes are part of the aquifer’s system unique qualities and feeding system.

      White Bear Lake, for example, is totally dependent on rain water and aquifer levels. With all the recent developments over the past decade the historic heavy usage of the aquifer and drought conditions meant White Bear Lakes and the other unique lakes were being drained down with little respite to be at levels again. It’s only going to get worse if stern measures aren’t taken immediately. Think about it!!!

      We only have our ignorances and procrastinations to blame.

  5. we says:

    I think its an alien plot to steal all of the water on earth and bring it to distant planet where they could raise human slaves to do all of their dirty work that they don’t want to do anymore.

    1. Larry Dentz says:

      Well I hope they get you first.

  6. leonard says:

    We went for a canoe ride on the White bear lake back in the 1980’s. We got a ticket for having to big of a wake. Its still leaking huh!.

    Meaner Suita

  7. MWeather says:

    Doesn’t help that companies like Nestle – not even US owned – are stealing water from the Great Lakes and selling it back to us. The Ogallala aquifer is shaping up to be the big problem though.