South-Central Minnesota Groundwater Monitoring and County Geologic Atlases (MN DNR)

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2009 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund
Recipient Type
State Government
Start Date
July 2008
End Date
June 2011
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2008, Chp. 367, Sec. 2, Subd. 04h1
2009 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Measurable Outcome(s)

Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".

Project Overview

Overall Project Outcome and Results
To better understand the recharge dynamics of the Mt. Simon aquifer the western edge of this aquifer was investigated through observation well installations, water level monitoring, groundwater chemical analysis, and aquifer capacity testing. Most data collected for this study are derived from the 27 observation wells, drilled to depths of 70 to 718 feet, that were installed at 14 locations by contracted drilling companies.

The combination of chemical residence time indictors, continuous water level data from nested well locations, and a general knowledge of the regional hydrostratigraphy, shows the Mt. Simon aquifer in this region has a very slow recharge rate from a large source area located south of the Minnesota River, and a smaller source area located in the northern portion of the study area. The younger Carbon-14 residence time values of Mt. Simon groundwater (7,000-8,000 years) from this project roughly correspond to a time after the last ice sheet had receded from southern Minnesota suggesting groundwater in the Mt. Simon aquifer in this region began as precipitation that infiltrated during the post-glacial period. The stable isotope data of oxygen and hydrogen support this conclusion. A recharge estimate of the Mt. Simon aquifer south of the Minnesota River based on these minimum residence time data suggest an infiltration rate of approximately 2 cm/year. The resulting 5 billion gallons/year of recharge from the southern source area is approximately equal to permitted volumes (volume of water that the users are allowed to pump) for appropriators in this area. At current groundwater extraction rates the region appears to be in a steady state. A major accomplishment of this project was the creation of a network of observation well nests, base line water level data, and geochemical data in this region that will enable future hydrologists to evaluate the local and regional affects of any future expansion of Mt. Simon groundwater pumping beyond current volumes. This effort is documented in a report "South-Central Minnesota Groundwater Monitoring of the Mt. Simon Aquifer". A document titled "Minnesota Groundwater Level Monitoring Network-Guidance Document for Network Development" was also completed as part of this project. The Guidance Document outlines how Minnesota's current groundwater level monitoring network of approximately 750 wells should be expanded to meet monitoring needs. This expansion is necessary because large areas in Minnesota are not adequately monitored. Many areas of Minnesota are underlain by multiple aquifers, all of which must be considered in developing the long-term network that will provide adequate resource data.

Project Results Use and Dissemination
The reports from this project will be available on the DNR website during the summer of 2011. An abstract of the project results will be submitted to the Geological Society of America for the national conference in Minneapolis during October 2011. In addition, a summary of the project will be submitted to the Minnesota Groundwater Association for inclusion in the quarterly newsletter. The well log and well construction information is currently available in the project report and the Minnesota Department of Health County Well Index. The wells have become part of the DNR observation well network. Water level data is currently available at:

Project Publication:
South-Central Minnesota Groundwater Monitoring of the Mt. Simon Aquifer (PDF - 3.0 MB)
Minnesota Groundwater Level Monitoring Network-Guidance Document for Network Development (PDF - 3.3 MB)

Project Details