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Minneapolis considering series of 30 wells for backup water supply

A series of 30 wells that tap into aquifers under Minneapolis could become an alternate source of water for the city and the communities that purchase their water from the city.

All of the water supply for the city and its customers now comes from the Mississippi River.

The city had explored a partnership with St. Paul as an alternate water source but decided instead that tapping into the groundwater system was a better backup source. St. Paul water also comes from the Mississippi.

“While the river has been an extremely reliable source for 100 years, we believe it is prudent to construct an alternate source to allow us to overcome potential natural and man-made disasters,” Steve Kotke, director of Public Works, told Council Members Thursday.

The wells could be built at the rate of three a year during the next 10 years.

Kotke is including $1.5 million in the 2014 Public Works budget request to move ahead on the project.

City Council members are expected to add the groundwater project to their list of state bonding requests for the 2014 legislative session. Total cost of the project would be an estimated $46 million.

“We do not now have any groundwater supply. We have relied exclusively on surface water, which is a much more sustainable source of water,” said Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy. Surface water is also more expensive to process that groundwater, she added.

The Minneapolis system currently supplies water to 500,000 people in the city and in cities that buy Minneapolis water.

Kotke estimated the groundwater system could provide 50 million to 60 million gallons of water to the city each day. The city currently withdraws 21 billion gallons of water from the river each year, about 57 million gallons in a day.

The location of the wells has not been decided but most of the potential locations are in north Minneapolis on land currently owned by the Park and Recreation Board. Park Board commissioners and staff have been briefed about the project.

The cities buying water from Minneapolis are Columbia Heights, Crystal, Golden Valley, Hilltop and New Hope. The Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport and Fort Snelling also purchase their water from Minneapolis.

The City Council’s 2014 state-bonding request now includes $25 million for reconstruction of Nicollet Mall, $4.5 million for storm tunnel preservation for I-35W, and $1.9 million for fence restoration at the Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery.

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