With 52% of Minnesota now experiencing severe drought and 4% in extreme drought, the state has entered the drought warning phase.

With this designation, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and others are taking additional steps. Current drought information, including details on areas subject to surface water use suspensions, is available on DNR’s website at dnr.state.mn.us.

Aitkin County is currently at a moderate drought level, like most of the northeast part of the state. However, to the west, severe to extreme drought conditions exist.

The warning phase for drought occurs when a significant portion of the state passes thresholds for severe drought conditions at major watersheds. The DNR says the state has reached this threshold, and it expects the warning phase for public water suppliers using the Mississippi River is also triggered when stream flows in the Twin Cities metropolitan area have dropped below designated levels to be triggered in the coming days.

Actions that are triggered in a drought warning include:

• Convening the State Drought Task Force, a panel of state, federal, regional and local experts with water-related responsibilities. The task force was last convened in 2012.

• 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 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.

Under current conditions, it will take at least 3-5 inches of precipitation spread over a period of about two weeks to significantly alleviate the drought. Drought is a naturally occurring feature of Minnesota’s climate. Some level of moderate and severe drought typically occurs in the state almost every year.

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