St. Paul, MINN. – The state’s new Groundwater Protection Rule (GPR) became effective June 24, 2019. The GPR will reduce the risk of nitrate from fertilizer impacting groundwater in areas of the state where soils are prone to leaching and where drinking water supplies are threatened. Nitrate is one of the most common contaminants in Minnesota’s groundwater; elevated nitrate levels in drinking water can pose serious health concerns for humans.
“Implementation of the Groundwater Protection Rule is a major milestone in protecting the state’s groundwater and ensuring all Minnesotans have safe drinking water,” said Governor Walz. “I want to commend the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for their commitment to making Minnesota a leader in addressing nitrate contamination and for their collaborative approach with farmers in doing so. The MDA went above and beyond in their duty to gather public comments and respond to feedback as they developed these important regulations.”
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) will oversee implementation of the rule. Beginning in 2020, use of nitrogen fertilizer in the fall and on frozen soils will be restricted in areas of the state with vulnerable groundwater, such as areas with coarse textured soil, shallow bedrock, or karst geology, and in public wellhead areas – known as Drinking Water Supply Management Areas (DWSMAs) – with elevated nitrate levels.
The GPR outlines a multi-level approach involving local farmers and agronomists working to mitigate nitrate losses in DWSMAs with high nitrate in groundwater. Farmers in a DWSMA would be subject to four levels of mitigation which move from voluntary to regulatory. A local advisory team, consisting primarily of producers and agriculture professionals, will advise the MDA regarding appropriate response activities for the area and support implementation of these activities.
The Groundwater Protection Rule is part of the state’s overall Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP) which was developed with broad stakeholder input over a five year period and implemented in 2015. More information on the rule and the NFMP is available at www.mda.state.mn.us/nfr.