At present, White Bear Lake is one of the largest, deepest, and cleanest lakes in the Twin Cities area. Unfortunately, it is now experiencing the lowest water levels ever recorded and the levels consistently continue to decline. Historically, fluctuation in water levels has correlated generally to levels of precipitation. Thus, in periods of low precipitation the lake water level drops and in periods of high precipitation the lake water level rises. Over the last 80 years, there were only two instances when the lake reached levels near where they are today. In both cases, the drop in water level occurred during drought conditions. Over the past decade, water levels have steadily declined despite precipitation levels remaining at or near a 30-year average.
On November 25, 2012 White Bear Lake water levels reached an historic record low of 919.17 feet, which is more than 5 feet below the ordinary high water level of 924.89 feet according to data from the DNR. (See Minnesota DNR White Bear Lake water level report here.) And thus, White Bear Lake now has many exposed patches of lakebed that look more like swamp land than open waters and recreational beaches. The low water levels have had a negative impact on lake business owners, recreational visitors, and lake home owners. In addition, the beach operated by Ramsey County has been closed since at least 2009 because the water has receeded so far that there are now dangerous drop off zones.
Earlier this year, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a federal government agency that provides impartial information on the health of ecosystems and the environment, made a presentation to the White Bear Lake Conservation District Board regarding a recent study of White Bear Lake. The USGS examined the potential causes of the water level decline, and completed a study on the interaction between groundwater and surface water in the area around White Bear Lake. This study acknowledged that precipitation levels alone could not account for the current low lake water levels. It concluded that one of the primary causes of the decline is increased high-capacity groundwater pumping.
In an effort to find a natural solution to restore the lake to average levels, the WBLRA has filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA). To view the lawsuit, please click here.