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South Washington County cities enter agreement to tackle water supply issue

Several cities in Washington County could enter into a local coalition aimed at tackling water supply problems forecast for the east metro.

The agreement includes Woodbury, Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Newport and Oakdale, among other parties all tapping from the same Prairie du Chien aquifer.

Woodbury City Administrator Clint Gridley said the coalition will help the cities come up with alternative water resources.

“This is a way for us to have a bigger impact,” he said.

Last week, the city of Cottage Grove entered into the agreement, a move City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said gives city officials a place at the discussion table.

“This (agreement) formalizes an ad hoc to monitor the (water supply) situation,” Schroeder said. “It gives the group one voice as it relates to aquifer sustainability.”

County officials are concerned that studies by the Metropolitan Council aren’t looking at stormwater and industrial water reuse.

“Our view is there is enough water,” Gridley said. “But we need to talk about how to use it.”

Woodbury, Cottage Grove and the entire northeast metro are the focus of studies questioning whether the current groundwater system will be sufficient come 2040, or if the region will have to start drawing from the Mississippi or the St. Croix rivers.

Woodbury currently uses about 2.4 billion gallons of water each year through its municipal groundwater system that pumps from the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer.

That use is expected to go up to 3.6 billion gallons by 2020; 4.2 billion by 2030; and 4.8 billion by 2040, according to Metropolitan Council figures.

There are 11 municipal wells and 900-plus private wells in the Cottage Grove area alone.

The coalition, Schroeder said, is not intended as a budgetary authority or to have any legal capabilities, but as a vehicle to discuss “the issue we are jointly facing as a community.”

“We have an obligation as a community to keep an eye on this as it relates to to sustainability,” Cottage Grove City Council member Justin Olsen said. “We must be stewards for our resources.”

Woodbury City Council was expected to adopt the intergovernmental agreement during its Wednesday, March 26 meeting.

There is no fee to join the agreement and for the time being, it will be dealt with on an administrative level, Schroeder said.

“We will continue to have meetings at the city level with other city administrators and the engineers will (do the same).”