Fighting drought, potato farmers in northern Minnesota overdrew their water permits by tens of millions of gallons
This story was originally published by the Star Tribune.
During the 2021 drought, nearly 800 Minnesota farmers with high-capacity wells pumped 6.5 billion more gallons of water than their permits allowed, state records show.
Farms on land owned or operated by R.D. Offutt Co., a potato-growing giant that has become one of the biggest water users in the state, were responsible for 23 percent of the excessive pumping.
“That’s quite a bit of overuse,” said Randall Doneen, a section manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We’re trying to get people back into compliance.”
The overpumping in 2021 put more stress on already depleted aquifers, lakes, and streams and raised the risk that neighboring wells would run dry.
A Star Tribune review of water permit data reported each year to the DNR found more than three of four water users who violated their permits were agricultural irrigators. But they are unlikely ... Read more