Under current conditions, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates it will take at least three to five inches of precipitation spread over a period of about two weeks to significantly alleviate the drought.

Minnesotans are encouraged to identify ways to reduce water use since more than 75 percent of Minnesotans rely on groundwater for their water supply.

Seven-inch shortfall

The Park Rapids area is in a severe drought.

According to National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Austin Perroux in Grand Forks, the area is 6.92 inches behind normal precipitation since January, having only received 5 inches of precipitation during those months. The 2.31 inches of rain that fell since June 1 is 3.6 inches below normal.

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Adding to the impact of the drought, temperatures have also been much warmer than average. For example, in June the average maximum high temperature for the month is 75.7 degrees. This June, that average maximum temperature rose to 84.4 degrees, with many days reaching highs in the 90s.

The average temperature when day and night temperatures in June were combined was 69.7 degrees, more than five degrees above the average combined temperature of 64.2 degrees.

Temperatures in the 90s are in the forecast this week, worsening the drought conditions, increasing the threat of wildfires and putting stress on crops going into the harvest.

While there are spotty chances for rain and scattered thunderstorms this week, widespread rain isn’t in the long-range forecast.

“Unfortunately, we had a huge honking ridge settle back into the area over the weekend, bringing a return to much above-normal temperatures, and there are no signs of meaningful precipitation in the next two weeks,” Perroux said. “Smoke from Canadian wildfires has kept us a few degrees lower than some areas. ”

The Climate Prediction Center shows drier and warmer than normal conditions are expected to continue through at least July.

Water restrictions

Under Minnesota’s drought warning phase, cities are required to implement watering restrictions, according to the state drought plan.

City Administrator Angel Weasner said information about the restrictions in Park Rapids will be posted on the city website.

“We will be restricting all outside watering,” Weasner said. “Gardens you will be able to do as that is a food source, but you cannot water your lawn, wash your vehicles or power wash your house. And unfortunately we’re going into what is usually a hot dry season in August.”

Anyone not following city ordinance could be convicted of a misdemeanor.

In Menahga, Public Works Director Ron Yliniemi said a resolution regarding watering restrictions will be on the July 26 council meeting agenda. Once passed, information on watering restrictions will be posted in the office and online.

Nevis and Akeley residents don’t have any watering restrictions at this time. “So far this year, we are doing fine and have not needed to implement any restrictions,” City Administrator Dawn Veit said. “People seem to be conscientious with their watering.”

Impact on Line 3

Last week,the DNR suspended the use of some water sources due to low water flow in specific watersheds. A spokesperson for Enbridge said they have adjusted their work plans to protect and conserve water.

“Our project permits include conditions that protect the environment during construction and specifically wild rice waters,” said Barry Simonson, director of mainline construction for Line 3. “We are focused on protecting and conserving water, and continue to work with agencies on next steps.”

Current drought information, including details on areas subject to surface water use suspensions, is available at www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/drought/index.html, which includes a link to sign up to receive drought-related notifications and information.

Help for farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Wadena and Hubbard County announced that ranchers and livestock producers can apply for assistance from the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for grazing losses due to drought conditions.

Producers are encouraged to contact the FSA office for an appointment to learn what records they need to have on hand in order to apply for assistance.

An eligible livestock producer must own or lease grazing land or pastureland physically located in a county meeting drought intensity criteria rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor. A map of eligible counties for LFP drought may be found on the FSA website.

The haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acres is also authorized under certain conditions to provide emergency relief to livestock producers during drought conditions.

For more information, contact the Wadena/Hubbard County FSA office at 218-631-2876 or visit

farmers.gov/recover.

Fire danger elevated

Brad Witkin, a fire program forester with the Park Rapids DNR, said there have been 1,100

wildfires so far in the state this season.

“This is definitely one of our more active fire seasons,” he said. “Out of this office, which covers 12 counties in west-central Minnesota, we’ve had about a dozen calls in the last two weeks,” he said. “We had a 50-acre fire Saturday down near Verndale. It was started right off of Hwy. 10, possibly by a catalytic converter or somebody dragging a chain. The other fires we’ve been able to hit quickly and keep them small. Most of those have been an acre or less.”

The drought is a big contributor to fires this summer.

“Moisture in the grass and vegetation is way down,” he said.

Detection aircraft help spot fires and helicopters are used for suppression.

“We’re staffing through the summer for fires which is not ordinary for us,” he said.

According to a statement by the NWS on Monday, the drought combined with warm temperatures means fires can ignite and spread rapidly. Although rain is badly needed, when thunderstorms move through the area, they can bring with them lightning and strong winds that may also contribute to fires.

“In Minnesota, most of our fires are started by people, but lightning can also hit trees and start a wildfire,” Whitkin said. “I think the message has gotten out to most people: they need to be really careful with fire this summer and follow the regulations we have in place.”

The NWS’ Northland Fire Danger monitor page also features daily updates as well as red flag warnings and watches.