Township Testing Program

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2020 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$37,827
2019 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$124,811
2018 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$229,854
2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$221,123
2016 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$276,290
2015 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$282,950
2014 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$123,192
Fund Source
Clean Water Fund
Recipient
Multiple SWCD and County Partners
Recipient Type
Local/Regional Government
Status
In Progress
Start Date
July 2013
End Date
June 2024
Activity Type
Monitoring
Technical Assistance
Counties Affected
Becker
Benton
Big Stone
Blue Earth
Brown
Carver
Chippewa
Chisago
Clay
Cottonwood
Dakota
Dodge
Douglas
Faribault
Fillmore
Freeborn
Goodhue
Houston
Hubbard
Kanabec
Kandiyohi
Lac qui Parle
Le Sueur
Lincoln
Lyon
Meeker
Morrison
Mower
Nicollet
Nobles
Olmsted
Otter Tail
Pipestone
Polk
Pope
Redwood
Rice
Rock
Scott
Sherburne
Stearns
Steele
Swift
Todd
Wabasha
Wadena
Washington
Watonwan
Winona
Wright
Becker
Benton
Big Stone
Blue Earth
Brown
Carver
Chippewa
Chisago
Clay
Cottonwood
Dakota
Dodge
Douglas
Faribault
Fillmore
Freeborn
Goodhue
Houston
Hubbard
Kanabec
Kandiyohi
Lac qui Parle
Le Sueur
Lincoln
Lyon
Meeker
Morrison
Mower
Nicollet
Nobles
Olmsted
Otter Tail
Pipestone
Polk
Pope
Redwood
Rice
Rock
Scott
Sherburne
Stearns
Steele
Swift
Todd
Wabasha
Wadena
Washington
Watonwan
Winona
Wright
Project Overview

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has designed a Township Testing Program to determine current nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in private wells on a township scale. The MDA has identified townships throughout the state that are vulnerable to groundwater contamination (because of local geology or shallow groundwater) and have significant row crop production. These are the counties that will be prioritized for Township Testing.

The MDA plans to offer nitrate testing to approximately 70,000 private well owners, within 250-280 townships, between 2014 and 2021. This work will be done in partnership with local governments across the state.

For more information about this program and other groundwater protection efforts, please visit the MDA's Groundwater and Drinking Water Protection web page.

 

About the Issue

Nitrate-nitrogen (referred to as nitrate) is a water soluble compound made up of nitrogen and oxygen. It can occur naturally in groundwater at levels typically in the range of 0 to 3 parts per million (ppm). Human activities such as sewage disposal, livestock production, and crop fertilization can elevate the level of nitrate in groundwater.

The drinking water standard for nitrate is 10 mg/L nitrate-nitrogen; above this level nitrate can have negative effects on human health, specifically infants under the age of six months. Nitrate contamination above the drinking water standard is most commonly found in aquifers that are vulnerable to contamination from the land surface, such as sand and gravel aquifers and fractured bedrock aquifers. Areas with heavy row crop agriculture and vulnerable groundwater are especially at risk.

Project Details

A total of 344 townships in 50 counties have participated in the Township Testing Program (2013-2019)

Initial results:

  • In the 344 townships tested, 143 (41%) have 10% or more of the wells over the Health Risk Limit (HRL) for Nitrate-N. In 133 townships less that 5% of the wells were over the HRL for Nitrate-N.
  • Overall, 9.1% (2,925) of the 32,217 wells exceeded the HRL for Nitrate-N.

Final results:

Legal Citation / Subdivision
Minnesota Session Laws - 2019, 1st Special Session, CHAPTER 2--S.F. No. 3, Article 2
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2019: (b) $2,585,000 the first year and $2,585,000 the second year are for monitoring and evaluating trends in the concentration of nitrate in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation; promoting, developing, and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices; assessing best management practice adoption; education and technical support from University of Minnesota Extension; grants to support agricultural demonstration and implementation activities, including research activities at the Rosholt Research Farm; and other actions to protect groundwater from degradation from nitrate. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2024.

Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)
  • Number of private wells in vulnerable townships that have been tested
  • Number of vulnerable townships
  • Number of counties
  • Overall percentage of wells tested in vulnerable areas exceeded the drinking water standard
  • Number of townships with ≥ 10% of wells over 10 mg/L nitrate
  • Number of townships with 5-9 % of wells over 10 mg/L nitrate
  • Number of townships with <5% of wells over 10 mg/L nitrate 
Legal Citation / Subdivision
Minnesota Session Laws - 2019, 1st Special Session, CHAPTER 2--S.F. No. 3, Article 2
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2019: (b) $2,585,000 the first year and $2,585,000 the second year are for monitoring and evaluating trends in the concentration of nitrate in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation; promoting, developing, and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices; assessing best management practice adoption; education and technical support from University of Minnesota Extension; grants to support agricultural demonstration and implementation activities, including research activities at the Rosholt Research Farm; and other actions to protect groundwater from degradation from nitrate. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2024.

2020 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$37,827
Other Funds Leveraged
$0
Direct expenses
$37,827
Administration costs
$0
Number of full time equivalents funded
see "Statewide Groundwater and Drinking Water Protection"
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)
  • Number of private wells in vulnerable townships that have been tested
  • Number of vulnerable townships
  • Number of counties
  • Overall percentage of wells tested in vulnerable areas exceeded the drinking water standard
  • Number of townships with ≥ 10% of wells over 10 mg/L nitrate
  • Number of townships with 5-9 % of wells over 10 mg/L nitrate
  • Number of townships with <5% of wells over 10 mg/L nitrate 
Measurable Outcome(s)

Results for 2013-2019

  • 32,217 private wells in vulnerable townships have been tested
  • Work was completed in 344 vulnerable townships within 50 counties
  • Overall, 9.1% (2,925) of the 32,217 wells tested in vulnerable areas exceeded the drinking water standard for nitrate
    • 143 townships with ≥ 10% of wells over 10 mg/L nitrate (41%)
    • 68 townships with 5-9 % of wells over 10 mg/L nitrate (20%)
    • 133 townships with <5% of wells over 10 mg/L nitrate (39%)
Legal Citation / Subdivision
Minnesota Session Laws - 2017, Regular Session, Chapter 91, Article 2, Section 3
Appropriation Language

(b) $2,085,000 the first year and $2,086,000 the second year are for monitoring and evaluating trends in the concentration of nitrate in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation; promoting, developing, and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices; assessing best management practice adoption; education and technical support from University of Minnesota Extension; grants to support agricultural demonstration and implementation activities; and other actions to protect groundwater from degradation from nitrate. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2022

2019 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$124,811
Other Funds Leveraged
$0
Direct expenses
$124,811
Administration costs
$0
Number of full time equivalents funded
see "Statewide Groundwater and Drinking Water Protection"
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Please see the most recent fiscal year for up to date information.

Measurable Outcome(s)

Please see the most recent fiscal year for up to date information.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
Minnesota Session Laws - 2017, Regular Session, Chapter 91, Article 2, Section 3
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2017: (b) $2,085,000 the first year and $2,086,000 the second year are for monitoring and evaluating trends in the concentration of nitrate in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation; promoting, developing, and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices; assessing best management practice adoption; education and technical support from University of Minnesota Extension; grants to support agricultural demonstration and implementation activities; and other actions to protect groundwater from degradation from nitrate. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2022.

2018 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$229,854
Other Funds Leveraged
$0
Direct expenses
$229,854
Administration costs
$0
Number of full time equivalents funded
see "Statewide Groundwater and Drinking Water Protection"
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Please see the most recent fiscal year for up to date information.

Measurable Outcome(s)

Please see the most recent fiscal year for up to date information.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
Minnesota Session Laws - 2015, 1st Special Session, Chapter 2, Article 2, Section 3
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2015: b) $2,586,000 the first year and $2,585,000 the second year are for monitoring and evaluating trends in the concentration of nitrate in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation; monitoring for pesticides when nitrate is detected; promoting, developing, and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices; assessing best management practice adoption; education and technical support from University of Minnesota Extension; and other actions to protect groundwater from degradation from nitrate. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2018

2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$221,123
Other Funds Leveraged
$0
Direct expenses
$221,123
Administration costs
$0
Number of full time equivalents funded
see "Statewide Groundwater and Drinking Water Protection"
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Please see the most recent fiscal year for up to date information.

Measurable Outcome(s)

Please see the most recent fiscal year for up to date information.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
Minnesota Session Laws - 2015, 1st Special Session, Chapter 2, Article 2, Section 3
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2015: b) $2,586,000 the first year and $2,585,000 the second year are for monitoring and evaluating trends in the concentration of nitrate in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation; monitoring for pesticides when nitrate is detected; promoting, developing, and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices; assessing best management practice adoption; education and technical support from University of Minnesota Extension; and other actions to protect groundwater from degradation from nitrate. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2018

2016 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$276,290
Other Funds Leveraged
$0
Direct expenses
$276,290
Administration costs
$0
Number of full time equivalents funded
see "Statewide Groundwater and Drinking Water Protection"
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Please see the most recent fiscal year for up to date information.

Measurable Outcome(s)

Please see the most recent fiscal year for up to date information.

Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2013, Chapter 137, Article 2, Section 3
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2013: (b) $2,500,000 the first year and $2,500,000 the second year are to increase monitoring and evaluate trends in the concentration of nitrates in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation, including a substantial increase of monitoring of private wells in cooperation with the commissioner of health, monitoring for pesticides when nitrates are detected, and promoting and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices to protect groundwater from degradation.

2015 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$282,950
Other Funds Leveraged
$0
Direct expenses
$282,950
Administration costs
$0
Number of full time equivalents funded
see "Statewide Groundwater and Drinking Water Protection"
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Measurable outcomes are reported in fiscal year 2014

Measurable Outcome(s)

In 2015, the MDA plans to test wells in townships located in Otter Tail County (32), Pope County (6), Morrison County (second round 5) and Sherburne County.

* The number in parenthesis indicates the number of townships per county.

Description of Funds
The funds listed on this page are provided to local partners through Joint Powers Agreements (JPA). JPAs have been established with Pope County ($23,854), Otter Tail County ($173,677) and Sherburne County ($111,537). An additional $8,200 was spent on equipment to support local groundwater monitoring and testing activities.
Legal Citation / Subdivision
M.L. 2013, Chapter 137, Article 2, Section 3
Appropriation Language

M.L. 2013: (b) $2,500,000 the first year and $2,500,000 the second year are to increase monitoring and evaluate trends in the concentration of nitrates in groundwater in areas vulnerable to groundwater degradation, including a substantial increase of monitoring of private wells in cooperation with the commissioner of health, monitoring for pesticides when nitrates are detected, and promoting and evaluating regional and crop-specific nutrient best management practices to protect groundwater from degradation.

2014 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$123,192
Other Funds Leveraged
$0
Direct expenses
$123,192
Administration costs
$0
Number of full time equivalents funded
see "Statewide Groundwater and Drinking Water Protection"
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

• Number of groundwater sensitive agricultural townships that have been characterized through MDA’s Township Testing approach for implementing the NFMP

The MDA’s target is to  offer nitrate testing to 70,000 private well owners, within approximately 250 townships, over the next six years. This work will be done in partnership with local governments across the state.

Measurable Outcome(s)

A total of 58 townships in eight counties have been sampled to date (2013-2014). Counties that have participated include Benton (3), Morrison (6), Wadena (4), Dakota (9, second round 5) , Stearns (14), Sherburne (5), Olmsted (11) and Washington (1). 

* The number in parenthesis indicates the number of townships per county.

 

  • A total of 58 townships in 8 counties have been sampled to date (2013-2014)
  • In 2013, approximately 1,964 wells were tested in 22 townships
      • Results indicate that in 18 of those townships, 10% or more of the wells sampled were over the Health Risk Limit of 10 mg/L nitrate-nitrogen
  • 36 townships were sampled in 2014; those results are not yet available.
  • The MDA plans to offer free nitrate test to approximately 56,000 more well owners between 2015 and 2021. Townships will be reevaluated on a 10-year cycle.
Description of Funds
The funds listed on this page are provided to local partners through Joint Powers Agreements (JPA). JPAs have been established with Dakota County ($75,768), Stearns County ($138,000), Olmsted County ($78,914) and Washington County ($37,759). An additional $20,000 was spent on equipment to support local groundwater monitoring and testing activities
Project Manager
First Name
Kimberly
Last Name
Kaiser
Organization Name
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Street Address
625 Robert Street North
City
St. Paul
State
MN
Zip Code
55155
Phone
(651) 201-6280
Email
Kimberly.Kaiser@state.mn.us
Administered By
Administered by
Location

625 Robert Street North
St. Paul, MN 55155

Phone
651-201-6000
Email the Agency