Water Resources

Our Changing Water Resources

While average annual rainfall amounts are expected to remain about the same as the climate warms, projections suggest that our winters and spring seasons will get both warmer and wetter. These changing precipitation extremes will challenge our water resources and stormwater management systems and shift both when and how we experience precipitation across the state. 

Today, the average Minnesotan uses 52 gallons of water per day. Annual total water use in Minnesota rose from about 850 billion gallons per year in the mid-1980s to almost 1.2 trillion gallons per year in 2018. The State of Minnesota  has set a goal to reduce water consumption by 15% by 2025.

In several areas of the state, increased domestic, agricultural, and industrial pressure on water resources has lowered the water levels in wells in recent years. This interplay between availability and use will become more important as water resources are replenished less regularly. It is crucial that we develop a sustainable water system now, in order to adapt to future changes.

The sustainability of our water resources depends on how well we manage them.

Change in well water levels from 1997 to 2016. "Downward trends can result from drier climate conditions or increased local groundwater use." 
(Source: Minnesota Environment and Energy Report Card - 2019)
 Percent change in annual precipitation by the end of the 21st Century (2081-2100), relative to the present day (1981-2010). This figure assumes that emissions peak in the mid-20th Century (about 2040) and then decline, such that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are steady by 2100 (RCP4.5).

(Maps courtesy of University of Wisconsin Probabilistic Downscaling v2.0. | David Lorenz and the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research.)


farm irrigation

Changing rainfall patterns can increase reliance on irrigation for crops.


A growing population and warmer temperatures increase demand for water.


Average annual damages from increased flood risk in the Midwest are projected to exceed $500 million by 2050.

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References & Suggested Reading

Angel, J., et al., 2018: Midwest. In Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II. doi:10.7930/NCA4.2018.CH21

Department of Natural Resources, 2021: Minnesota Water Use Data. URL.

Environmental Quality Board, 2019: Minnesota Environment and Energy Report Card. URL.

Environmental Quality Board, 2020: 2020 State Water Plan: Water and Climate. Report. URL.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2021. "Water Conservation for Residents." URL

Noe, R.R., et al. 2019: Climate change projections for improved management of infrastructure, industry, and water resources in Minnesota. Report. URL.

USGCRP, 2018: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II [Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, 1515 pp. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018.