White Bear Lake, Minnesota
White Bear Lake is a 2400 acre lake that represents a very strong economic, recreational and cultural asset to the local community, the region as well as to the State of Minnesota. The lake and the surrounding communities have a very long and rich history.
The issue of the water level in White Bear Lake has been of concern to our local communities, businesses, citizens of the region, and regional government over the last several years. White Bear Lake is the focal point of our community and its qualities and values must be protected and preserved. The White Bear Lake Conservation District, concerned citizens, elected officials, business owners as well as technical support from regional and state agencies have been meeting regarding White Bear Lake’s record low water level.
Data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the MN DNR, the White Bear Lake Conservation District, etc. provides a strong indication that water usage from municipal wells is the primary driver for the lower water level in White Bear Lake. Increased rainfall can always help our lake level but rainfall no longer appears to be the primary driver for our lake level. It is only logical to work on ways to decrease the water usage from municipal wells in our region.
The ultimate solution to the low lake level in White Bear Lake appears to be a three step process including:
Step 1: Conservation
Step 2: Augmentation with surface water
Step 3: Switching 20 communities on the east side of the Twin Cities from groundwater to surface water
Unfortunately, there is NOT a short term resolution to White Bear Lake’s water level problem. The resolution to this serious water level problem will take 5, 10 or even 15 years of concerted effort by our community, by this region and by the state of Minnesota.
Step 1: Conservation
Once lake levels are restored, conservation measures will help to maintain them. If more sustainable groundwater management is not adopted, lake levels will be lower than historical levels for a given precipitation regime and will continue to decline. The goal of conservation is to encourage and enhance water conservation through municipal water restrictions and conservation pricing, enforcement of lawn watering restrictions and schedules, more public education, etc. The result will be less groundwater pumped from aquifers, thereby allowing aquifer levels to rebound and reducing the rate of water outflow from the lake. This would ultimately increase the lake water levels. More information about conservation options can be found online at:
The White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce (WBACC) has launched a community based conservation program entitled “Doing Our Part, Saving our Lake”. Conservation was viewed as the only immediate and low-cost restoration action. The WBACC saw this as an opportunity to have local businesses and organizations lead the way in the conservation effort. Widespread reduction in water use will also lay the groundwork to sustain any larger, more costly efforts to restore the level of White Bear Lake in the future.
For more information or to request a sign for your home or business contact the
WBACC at 651-429-8593.
Step 2: Augment White Bear Lake with Surface Water
Augmenting water levels in White Bear Lake with surface water will be considered. This entails construction of a pipeline to bring water from St. Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS) to White Bear Lake, treating the water for aquatic invasive species and phosphorus and then discharging the treated water to the lake. Preliminary estimates for augmentation range from $16 million to $20 million. The Met Council received funding from the MN legislature during its 2013 legislation session and prepared a Request For Proposal (RFP) for engineering feasibility. The Met Council will award the the feasibility study shortly which will be completed by January 2013.
Homeowners around Gilfillan and Snail Lakes worked together to fund and build pipelines from the SPRWS source (surface water) as well as water treatment systems. For Gilfillan Lake, a newly created Lake Improvement District of 44 home owners gained access to $1 million in bonds over 15 years to fund the project. The cost for the Snail Lake project was close to $16 million.
Step 3: Switch Drinking Water from Municipal Wells to Surface Water
Groundwater use has increased over the decades and most of the growth in groundwater useage is related to the needs of growing cities. Groundwater use could be reduced by purchasing water from St. Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS) thereby using surface water from the Mississippi River as a municipal drinking water source. By reducing groundwater use, groundwater levels are more likely to rebound and thereby support higher lake levels over the long-term.