Minnesota railway seeks to drill two wells and export water to drought-stricken Southwest

November 4, 2019

A railway in Lakeville, Minnesota, is seeking to have two water wells drilled that would annually produce 500 million gallons of water to be shipped by rail to areas in the drought-stricken southwestern United States.

The Star Tribune reports the proposal is unprecedented in Minnesota and is receiving pushback from county leaders and environmental advocates.

The real estate arm of Progressive Rail, Empire Building Investments, filed a preliminary application with the Department of Natural Resources in early October. The application states it wants two wells drilled in Randolph, Minnesota. The wells together would pump up to 6,000 gallons of water per minute — doubling the amount of water that’s currently extracted annually from wells by farmers and residents.

According to the application, the water would be used for commercial and institutional purposes. However, a county commissioner said he heard it was intended for agricultural use in southwestern Colorado, reported the Star Tribune.

Due to 20 years of drought conditions for seven southwestern states in the Colorado River basin, demand has risen for crop irrigation and drinking water.

The proposal will face “significant challenges,” according to a manager at the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Among them is a Minnesota state statute that prohibits issuing new permits for wells drawing water from the Mount Simon-Hinckley Aquifer in the metro area unless the water is used for potable use and there are no “feasible or practical alternatives.”

The Star Tribune also reports another Minnesota law cites specific criteria for diverting water outside of Minnesota, but it isn’t forbidden by state law.

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