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Our View: Woodbury right to float early solutions for looming problem

As Woodbury continues to boom, the common refrain is that growth is generally good for the community.

In many ways, yes. Property values, job opportunities and amenities like robust retail chase residential growth here.

Yet as we bask in the offerings that surround us in Woodbury, we must acknowledge that growth also brings unintended consequences. For one, we are putting a strain on our water supply.

The problem isn’t at crisis stage yet, but Woodbury city officials warn us that water use in the city is expected to double between now and 2040.

So what? Won’t we be able to continue tapping our plentiful underground water supply?

Not for long, according to the city. If left unchecked, water usage will suck dry the aquifer that Woodbury and many other cities tap for drinking, municipal and commercial uses. That water source, the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer, comprises Washington, Ramsey and parts of Anoka counties.

Fortunately, this issue is more than a blip on Woodbury’s radar. City Council members last month gathered for a briefing by Public Works Director Klayton Eckles on the situation. During the workshop, Eckles outlined the problem and addressed possible solutions.

It’s conceivable that a concerted effort to reduce water consumption would stem the tide, Eckles told the council.

That concept is plausible, but would take more than a strong suggestion from the city in order for residents to comply. Like the summer lawn-watering laws in effect in Woodbury, any additional efforts at reducing water usage would surely involve punitive measures for noncompliance.

While we never like to see government mandates dictating how we live our lives, we concede that such steps may be a necessary trade-off in return for reasonable water rates. After all, residents should not be priced out of a basic human necessity. 

Combined with innovative water collection and re-use practices that city officials discussed, we see this problem as one that can be solved.

The alternative solution would be one most Woodbury residents won’t be eager to swallow. That, Eckles explained, would call for water to be pumped from the Mississippi River to Woodbury. That water would have to be treated and would require new water treatment facilities to be constructed. In addition to the engineering hurdles that option would present, the considerable cost would inevitably be turned over to the public. 

It’s encouraging to know the city of Woodbury is out in front on this issue and prepared to take proactive measures to address the looming problem. Also heartening is the fact that the Department of Natural Resources is also making the issue a priority.

Our real concern is whether everyone’s heeding the warning. Not every community may be as willing to get out in front of this issue as Woodbury. And there are a lot of other cities to get on board with this effort.

We’ve all seen what happened to White Bear Lake. As Minnesotans, we treasure not just our bountiful lakes, but our high-quality drinking water. This aquifer issue poses a threat to both.

All communities utilizing the Prairie du Chien aquifer should follow Woodbury’s lead and take steps toward mitigating this problem.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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