Six watersheds move to drought watch phase

Minnesota DNR says St. Croix among river basins affected by deepening dry spell.




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St. Croix River sand, June 2023 (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)

Due to rapidly developing precipitation deficits over much of Minnesota, six watersheds will be moving to the Drought Watch Response Phase as prescribed in the Minnesota Statewide Drought Plan (PDF).

  • Mississippi Headwaters
  • Western Superior
  • St. Croix
  • Rainy River
  • Upper Mississippi-Black-Root
  • Upper Mississippi-Maquoketa-Plum

Four watersheds have remained in various drought response phases since the summer of 2022, and are currently in the Drought Watch Response Phase, due to prolonged drought conditions:

  • Des Moines River
  • Missouri-Little Sioux
  • Missouri-Big Sioux
  • Red River

“Drought watch” means a significant portion of the watershed is “Abnormally Dry” or in “Moderate Drought.” The more intense “drought warning” phase, which much of Minnesota entered in 2021 and 2022, means more severe and widespread drought. Some degree of drought occurs in Minnesota nearly every year.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map released today shows significant amounts of abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions over much of the state, with a small portion of severe drought developing in central Minnesota. There is also a significant amount of moderate drought in and near the seven-county Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. “Abnormally dry” and ”moderate drought” classifications mean there are decreased lake and river levels, reduced soil moisture and increased fire danger. 

The DNR encourages water users and suppliers in drought watch areas to consider voluntary measures to reduce water use. Per the Statewide Drought Plan, no mandatory restrictions or new water appropriation suspensions are being implemented at this time.

The DNR is taking the following actions:

  • Notifying the State Drought Task Force of these conditions. The task force comprises representatives from state agencies, local governments and related organizations.
  • Updating the DNR Drought webpage.
  • Notifying public water suppliers in the Drought Watch Response Phase watersheds and encouraging them to implement demand reduction and water conservation measures.
  • Closely monitoring conditions.

“Drought watch is a reminder that Minnesotans should not take water for granted. Water use increases as conditions become drier, and that strains water supplies,” DNR Conservation Assistance and Regulation Section Manager Randall Doneen said. “It is important for all water users to look at how much water they’re using and commit to using less, not just during drought but on an ongoing basis.”

Minnesotans are encouraged to learn how much water they are using compared to the average American home and identify ways to reduce water use now and in the future. More than 75% of Minnesotans rely on groundwater for their water supply. Reducing use today saves water for the future.

A map of Minnesota watersheds, a link to the U.S. Drought Monitor and more information about drought in Minnesota is available on the DNR website. The website includes a link where anyone can sign up to receive drought-related notifications and information.