• Climate in the Region
• The Report
• Technical Background
• For Teachers
• Migrating Climates
• Water Resources
• Sense of Place
• Solutions where we Live
• Reducing our Emissions
• Managing our Response
• Ten Personal Solutions
Climate Change in Minnesota
Climate Change Impacts:
Water Supply and Pollution
Minnesota depends heavily on groundwater, fresh water from lakes and the Mississippi River, and rainfall for agriculture, drinking, and industrial use. As the state's population of about 5 million continues to grow to nearly 6 million by 2025, pressures on water resources will increase.
As climate change takes effect, projected changes in rainfall, evaporation, and groundwater recharge rates will affect all freshwater users. Among the potential impacts of climate change with implications for water supply and pollution levels in Minnesota are:
- A Reduction in Groundwater Recharge
Reduced summer water levels are likely to diminish the recharge of groundwater, cause small streams to dry up, and reduce the area of wetlands, resulting in poorer water quality and less habitat for wildlife.
- A Decrease in Lake Levels
Changes in the precipitation cycle and seasonal temperatures will affect lake levels. Overall, increasing temperatures will lead to a decline in ice cover and a greater rate of evaporation, causing lake levels to decline. As lake levels drop, costs to shipping on the Great Lakes are likely to increase, along with costs of dredging harbors and channels and of adjusting docks, water intake pipes, and other infrastructure.
- An Increase in Extraction Pressure
With growing populations and projected drops in lake and ground water levels, climate change is expected to exacerbate an already contentious debate on water withdrawals from the Great Lakes. Conflicts may intensify as water shortages develop and pressure increases for more water for irrigation, drinking, and other human uses.
- A Degradation of Wetlands' Flood-Absorbing Capacity
Development and climate change will degrade the natural flood-absorbing capacities of wetlands and floodplains. More run-off in winter and spring from rain-on-snow events and in summer from intense downpours, cause increased flooding and erosion. These events in turn could increase pollution in lakes, rivers, and streams from municipal and farm run-off, which often enters surface waters untreated. Periodic droughts also concentrate sulfates and acids, and, when flushed into lakes during intense rains, increase acid stress in aquatic systems.
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