Mississippi River water flow dropping, new drought phase begins

Drought conditions in Minnesota are expected to reach a new level today.

Water flow in the Mississippi River has been dropping for weeks and new data released Tuesday shows it has been below 1,500 cubic feet per second at the official survey site in Brooklyn Park for five straight days, triggering the next phase of the state’s drought plan: the restrictive phase. The next phase could lead to water restrictions for any city that gets its water supply from the river.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Statewide Drought Plan, the restrictive phase means a significant portion of the watershed is in a severe drought. During this phase, the state is supposed to notify water suppliers of severe drought conditions and suppliers are supposed to implement appropriate water use restrictions as per their water supply plans.

In St. Paul, that means residents could face fines for using too much water. Last week, the city council approved a water reduction plan which is activated if the state enters the "restrictive phase."

Residents would get warnings for the first two violations, but after that fines would be issued starting at $50. Right now, the city is asking residents to voluntarily cut down on their water usage.

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If the water flow on the river drops below 1,000 cubic feet per second, that would put Minnesota in the emergency phase of the drought plan, leading to even more water restrictions.

Four months ago, the Mississippi River was flowing at 27,000 cubic feet per second, nearly 20 times the volume of water moving through the river right now. 

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