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Bill Droste: Conserving Rosemount's water, one gallon at a time

We live in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. That's what our license plates say, and that's where many of us have enjoyed great vacations. But there's another source of water that I'm asking our citizens to protect.

I find that many people are surprised that the water we drink in Rosemount comes not from a surface lake, nor from the Mississippi River on our northeastern border. It comes from aquifers — natural underground reservoirs — hundreds of feet below Earth's surface.

When I speak to elementary school students, they are fascinated and often surprised to learn that the city's water supply is pumped from aquifers that formed thousands of years ago. The water's quality is high and it is affordable to reach. But as we and other cities pump it out, the supply is replenished only at a glacial pace.

Projected growth of the Twin Cities metro area means demand on that underground storehouse will continue to increase over the next few decades. That's why for the second year, I have joined the National Mayor's Challenge. My colleagues across the country and I are asking citizens to pledge to conserve our water and other needed resources.

In Rosemount's first year of participation, we placed 34th in the nation for pledges among cities with 5,000 to 30,000 population. Total pledges to reduce water consumption by our community came to 1,079,505 gallons. If you built a swimming pool that size, it would need to be almost as long as a football field. It's also as much as the city's water tower on Connemara Trail holds at any given time.

Just to put it in context: last year the city pumped 920 million gallons of water for all purposes — homes, businesses, schools and parks. That amounts to 107 gallons per resident each day. We look for incentives to reduce that demand.

The Mayor's Challenge is a project of the Wyland Foundation with corporate sponsors including Toro. There are prizes available to people who visit the website and learn how to pledge conservation. (Watch for news coverage of the national kickoff event at the Mall of America next week.)

Of course I can't promise that someone from Rosemount will win the grand prize, a Toyota Prius. But I do guarantee that everyone who makes a pledge and follows through will get a number of benefits.

The immediate one is savings on your water and sewer bills from the city. Rosemount utility customers are billed in thousand-gallon increments. To comply with state DNR requirements, the city adjusted its utility rates in 2010 to give low users a cheaper rate than what they'd had several years before.

Water conservation also allows the city to delay building more wells, putting off costs that are passed through to everyone. And it delays, and I hope avoids, finding a new source of water for Rosemount that would be more expensive to pipe here and treat.

Beginning this weekend, please visit the Mayor's Challenge website at mywaterpledge.com. You'll learn some simple techniques you can adopt to save water and other resources. And you can add your pledge to those of other Rosemount residents. Let's improve on 34th in the country this year.

Good, affordable water is a source of our community's strength and economic future. I hope we will all work toward preserving it for the next generations in Rosemount.

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