MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources warns Minnesotans to conserve water, with severe drought now affecting almost half our state and straining water supply. The entire state is considered to be in moderate drought.
The agency is asking people to stop watering their lawns and trees or washing their cars. Farmers are asked to stop outdoor irrigation and businesses should reduce their water use, state officials say.
"We typically have an attitude in Minnesota, we are in a land of ten thousand or more lakes, there is enough water to go around. We are in a period now where there is not enough water to go around, it's important we change our behaviors and conserve more," said Dave Luethe, the deputy director of the Ecological and Water Resources Division.
Luethe says lawns go dormant without water and recover from drought, and are considered "non-essential" at this time.
Strain is visible around many places in Minnesota, especially in south central, southwestern, and northwestern parts of the state.
The water levels at White Bear Lake have dipped to a record low, according to the DNR. You can see exposed riverbeds along the Minnesota River near Shakopee, and the Clearwater area along the Mississippi. Areas in wetlands are dusty, and cracked. Minnehaha Falls is now reduced to a faint trickle.
"Usually when we get out of our car we can hear it, the water rushing, and I said to my son, I don't hear anything and we were shocked to see no water, it's sad," said Denise Cote, who says she comes to Minnehaha Falls with her family every MEA weekend. "We have seen these falls many times but never have seen them dry, it puts it in perspective and makes you understand the drought now."
Minnesota DNR state climatologist Greg Spoden says many parts of the state lost the equivalent of two months of summer rainfall, in some areas, up to 10 inches of rainfall. He says July 2012 is second warmest month in Minnesota's modern history, with the drought rivaling the same intensity as the 1988 drought. Spoden believes the outlook will become more dire without more precipitation this fall, winter and spring.
State officials worry about depleted groundwater, which becomes the majority of the state's drinking water.
Christine Garry, of Chanhassen, understands the concern. She also came to Minnehaha Falls with her kids this week, only to discover it was barely the sight she remembered.
"We did live in a desert area, Las Vegas, and that was a big deal, we all want our green lawns, but water conservation is important," she said.
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