Minneapolis drought devastates Minnehaha Creek


Olivia Wegmann-Krider

Two people stand 53 feet high at the edge of what was once the roaring Minnehaha falls.

Olivia Brinkman, Staff Writer

Minneapolis citizens’ concerns are heightening as water attractions dry up at an alarming rate; the Minnehaha Creek in particular is more dry and dreary than ever. With the absence of water flow, the Minnehaha Falls along the creek have halted. Just three years ago, inflatable tubing down the creek was a popular activity in Edina. Now, the water level will not surpass ankle depth anywhere along the route. 

Roughly a month ago, the U.S. Drought Monitor categorized Hennepin County and the Minnehaha creek as areas of extreme drought. In addition, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District published a water level update that deemed September 2022 the driest month on record in Minnesota. The update also ranked the summer of 2022 as the fourth driest summer on record in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the driest since the peak of the Dust Bowl drought in 1936. 

“What causes drought is essentially two factors, below normal rainfall and above normal  [temperatures], so you’re essentially having evaporation exceeding how much rain is falling,” MCWD Senior Project Maintenance Coordinator Tiffany Schaufler said. 

Rainfall in particular was lacking in Minneapolis, according to the water level update, the total rainfall for September 2022 was a mere 0.23 inches, as opposed to the predicted 3.02 inches. Last year, in September 2021, there was a total of 1.48 inches of rainfall, over six times the amount of rain that fell in September 2022. 

 Droughts are an infrequent occurrence in Minnesota. “In the midwest, [citizens believe] you don’t have to deal with those issues,” Edina High School Project Earth club leader Olivia Machart said. 

Machart noted that many factors could play into this ongoing drought, including rising air pollution and excessive water usage. “Americans use too much water daily,” she said. “I feel like [it’s important to make] sure water is draining properly and eroding properly into creeks, because [water] is dropping significantly.” 

Schaufler agrees that the unusual drought could be climate change impacting local weather events. “Climate change is really making things very unpredictable, the patterns that we’re used to are no longer there,” she said.

Winter of 2021 was also lacking in precipitation, likely creating another hurdle in maintaining traditional water levels. “We didn’t have as much snow, and we had it for a lot less time [when we did],” Machart said. “Now, it’s like our springs are getting different,” she said, referencing the rapid decline of rainfall that was especially evident in the spring of 2022.

Though the proceedings of the creek still remain mostly unpredictable, Schaufler recognized that this winter will play a significant role in the creek’s future. “It’s really dependent on how this winter shakes out… the National Weather Service’s outlook for winter is equal chances of above-normal snow or below-normal,” Schaufler said.

Above-normal snow would give hope for the creek’s recovery, however, the amount of snow that Minneapolis will receive this winter is undetermined. “It’s kind of 50/50, which isn’t ideal, because we are really in a deficit here. Last year, I think we were six inches below normal, and right now, we’re ten inches,” said Schaufler.