League of Women Voters Park Rapids Area (LWVPRA) will host two speakers who will discuss groundwater sustainability concerns in the area.

The program will be 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct 24 at the Northwoods Bank community room.

The City of Park Rapids has had to deal with excess nitrates in one city well. Many rural residents need to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking because of nitrate concerns. Is this the “tip of the iceberg” or are there ways to manage our groundwater that will allow for industry, agriculture and citizens to share this valuable resource?

There will also be displays on private water treatment, city water treatment and well testing in Hubbard and Becker counties.

The first speaker will be Dr. George Kraft, a hydrologist and professor of water resources at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. He is performing research, advising on policy and doing Extension education on groundwater sustainability issues.

Kraft’s work has concentrated on nitrate pollution of groundwater and drinking water, and how groundwater irrigation pumping has caused a decline in streamflows and lake levels in central Wisconsin. He has published extensively on groundwater concerns, and is sought after as an advisor on scientific and policy workgroups.

Kraft’s presentation reflects on a 30-year record of research on how irrigated farming – mainly for potatoes, other vegetables and field corn – have affected groundwater quality and quantity in central Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, the main issues are extensive nitrate pollution, as over 40 percent of wells in some townships exceed standards, and drying of lakes and streams by unlimited irrigation.

Kraft will discuss how politics and a strong industry lobby have stymied even discussing the causes and effects of water challenges, let alone suggesting policies on how to manage them. Though Park Rapids area industry, geography, geology and politics may differ from those that exist in central Wisconsin, that region’s experiences may be a help in advancing more proactive discussion and avoiding pitfalls.

The second speaker is Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) area hydrologist Darrin Hoverson. His responsibilities include surface and groundwater resource management, water resource compliance and regulation as well as providing technical analysis, assistance and information to the public, local and state units of government and other water resource professionals.

Having grown up in the Park Rapids area, being an active member of this community and with his 12 years of work at the DNR, Hoverson provides a deep understanding of the area’s natural resources, plus community issues. His education includes a master’s in water resources from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, and a bachelor’s degree in aquatic biology from St. Cloud State University.

Hoverson will provide a brief history and update on DNR groundwater management efforts within the Pineland Sands and Straight River Groundwater Management Areas, ongoing and future monitoring and groundwater studies and private/public partnerships. He will focus on DNR’s roles in ensuring the sustainable use of the region’s groundwater and groundwater dependent resources.

LWVPRA is a non-partisan, volunteer organization whose mission is to encourage informed and active participation in government and influence public policy through education and advocacy. All programs are free and open to the public.

Direct any questions about LWVPRA activities, events or on how to join (not for women only) by emailing lwvparkrapids@lwvmn.org. Follow League activities, events at lwvparkrapidsarea.blogspot.com.