Cities urge water users to limit use in ‘drought warning phase’

Consider water saving measures during the present time.

Stressed corn is one of numerous signs of loss across areas of agriculture in fields like this one north of Wadena, July 21, 2021. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

The DNR announced last week that the state had entered a “drought warning phase” and the local area, including all of Wadena County, is currently in an extreme drought based on the DNR’s drought index. There's currently a line of counties from Lake of the Woods County south all the way to Stearns County with all counties in between in extreme drought.

The drought warning phase triggers some steps like:

  • Notifying water appropriators with DNR permits that they should follow water conservation measures , such as reducing landscape irrigation, using more efficient irrigation equipment, and checking for and repairing water leaks. Water appropriation permit holders can contact the local DNR area hydrologist for technical assistance or with any questions.

  • Notifying public water suppliers that it is time to implement their water-use reduction actions. Residents and landowners should watch for communications from their municipal or public water supplier for details on local water use reduction actions and restrictions.

  • Temporarily suspending or modifying some water appropriations in response to low stream flow conditions as necessary. As of July 15, the DNR has suspended water appropriations in 10 watersheds. Suspension of more surface water appropriations is expected, unless there is a dramatic change in the current precipitation pattern.

“We will be following their recommendations as far as just doing a voluntary water conservation,” said Wadena Utilities Superintendent Dave Evans.
This week the city of Wadena announced the following restrictions:

  • Residents are to alternate lawn sprinkling to even restrictions, meaning off house numbers sprinkle on odd number days of the week and even house numbers sprinkle on even number days of the week.
  • Voluntarily conserve water by taking shorter showers, wash only full loads of laundry or dishes and not let water run unnecessarily.

Evans said the utilities department checked the level of the aquifer and it remains at a similar depth of three years ago. That is lower than last year, which was an exceptionally wet year. At any rate, it’s a level that’s not too concerning to public utilities staff.
“Definitely not in any critical stage, but we will be following those procedures,” Evans said.

Not far off in the city of Henning, city staff have implemented a more aggressive prohibition on certain forms of watering starting July 26. There is to be no lawn watering, pool filling, power washing of buildings, or car washing except commercial car washing businesses. Sebeka issued a similar statement on their website encouraging people to also limit use of water in similar areas.


"As a public water supplier, the City of Sebeka is encouraging all residents to take actions to reduce water use. Significant demand reduction is achievable by limiting non-essential outdoor water use, especially lawn irrigation, power washing buildings, car washing and swimming pool filling. You should also fix leaks, and when able, install water saving devices and water-efficient appliances," according to a posting on the City of Sebeka website.

This request to reduce water usage comes just over a month after the city of Wadena asked residents to lower their electricity usage during an extreme heat wave June 10.

No surprise that after an extra warm spring and summer so far with very limited rainfall, the area is parched.

Under current conditions, it will take at least three to five inches of precipitation spread over a period of about two weeks to significantly alleviate drought, according to the DNR. Soils are more efficiently replenished by multiple rainfall events than by any single heavy rainfall event. Surface water and groundwater respond somewhat differently over time.

Drought conditions have elevated fire danger in roughly the northern two-thirds of the state.

Water conservation tips can be found on the DNR Water Conservation webpage and

BNSF Water.jpg
Water flows beneath the BNSF railway east of Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in rural Deer Creek, Minn., where he is starting to homestead with his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at or 218-640-2312.
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