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Extension > Agriculture > Crops > Agricultural Irrigation > Water sources and quality

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Water sources and quality

Water sources in Minnesota

Water is a shared resource in Minnesota. Unlike western states that have prior appropriation water rights, anyone may apply to the Minnesota DNR for an irrigation permit. An appropriation permit is required for anyone using more than 10,000 gallons of water per day or more than 1 million gallons of water per year. Irrigation has expanded in Minnesota over the past 60 years (Figure 1).

Irrigation permit increase

Figure 1. Permitted irrigation area in acres over time (1952 – 2013) Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Water quality

Monitoring and research has shown that the concentration of nitrate–N in groundwater has increased in areas with a high concentration of row crop agriculture and where soils are highly permeable. These areas are are classified according to water table aquifer vulnerability.

Preventing further degradation of groundwater will require careful irrigation water management and utilization of nitrogen fertilizer best management practices.

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