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Water Levels Update

(Updated Wednesday, July 3, Lake Nokomis section updated Wednesday, July 10)

Map of watershed rainfallJune 30 - July 1 Rainfall Summary & Water Levels Update

Rainfall totals from June 30 through July 1 were higher than anticipated and according to the Hennepin County Mesonet weather stations, totaled on average between approximately 2.6 - 3.5 inches across the watershed (see map below). This brings the Twin Cities' total precipitation this year to 20.43 inches of precipitation this year, which is 6.35 inches above average. 

Most of June had been drier than normal prior to this week's rain event with only 1.69 inches of rain since May 28 at the Minneapolis – St. Paul Airport. The dry weather provided some much needed relief to water levels across the watershed, allowing Lake Minnetonka to drop 8 inches since its peak on May 30 and Lake Nokomis to drop 15 inches since its peak on May 28.

Although water levels started to moderate in June, this recent rain event has caused water levels to become elevated again.
 
Looking ahead to the next seven days, the National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting less than 0.50 inches of rain for the watershed. Assuming the seven day forecast stays relatively dry, MCWD anticipates that it will take a week before water levels across the watershed will start to see some relief.

Lake Minnetonka Water Levels GraphLake Minnetonka and Gray's Bay Dam

  • The June 30 – July 1 rain event cause Lake Minnetonka’s lake level to increase 2.76 inches to an elevation of 929.78 feet above sea level (see graph to right). While this is 4.56 inches above the ordinary high water level of 929.40 feet, it is 2.64 inches below the emergency spillway.
  • It is likely that Lake Minnetonka’s water level will continue to increase over the next few days because the largest upper watershed stream (Six Mile Creek) that drains into Lake Minnetonka received over 3.5 inches of rain during the June 30 – July 1 rain event
  • Due to the dry weather in June Lake Minnetonka dropped below 929.60 feet on June 26 which is in "Zone 4" of the Gray’ Bay Dam operating plan (see graph below). That allowed us to reduce the discharge to a maximum of 150 cubic feet per second (cfs), providing some relief to downstream communities
  • The rain the past couple of days caused the lake level to increase requiring the Gray’s Bay Dam to operate in “Zone 1” (see graph below)
  • To mitigate the inflow of water into Lake Minnetonka while balancing water levels in Minnehaha Creek, the Gray’s Bay Dam discharge was increased to 250 cubic feet per second yesterday morning (July 2)
    • The dam discharge will likely remain at 250 cfs until Lake Minnetonka drops 2.16 inches to an elevation of 929.60 or until a large precipitation event is forecasted

Gray's Bay Dam discharge zones graphMinnehaha Creek

  • The Minnehaha Creek flow had fallen almost 200 cfs over the past few weeks due to the dry weather
  • During the June 30 – July 1 rain event, Minnehaha Creek peaked at 443 cfs at 4:20am on July 2
  • Minnehaha Creek is currently flowing bank full around 295 cfs near Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis
  • High flows are expected to continue on the creek as water levels across the watershed are high after this rain event and continue to drain into Minnehaha Creek
  • MCWD is advising people that it is unsafe to paddle the creek at this time. Ideal creek flow for paddling is between 75 - 150 cfs. Flows above 150 cfs can make it difficult to react to obstacles (downed trees, branches, etc) in the creek and to pass under some bridges. There are a lot of obstacles in the creek, as city crews have not yet been able to remove them due to high water. Learn more about paddling conditions

Lake Nokomis (Minneapolis)

  • The June 30 – July 1 rain event caused Lake Nokomis’ water level increased 5.52 inches to an elevation of 816.28 feet above sea level, which is 10.56 inches above the ordinary high level of 815.40 feet
  • The stretch of dry weather allowed the weir at Lake Nokomis to be opened to relieve high water conditions and has helped drop the lake level 15 inches over the past month
  • The Nokomis weir is now fully open and the lake is discharging into Minnehaha Creek (updated 7/10)
  • MPRB and MCWD staff will continue to look for opportunities to open the weir to allow the lake to drain into Minnehaha Creek while still protecting the lake from inflows from the creek

Lake Hiawatha (Minneapolis)

  • Yesterday’s (July 2) Lake Hiawatha level reading was 815.0 feet above sea level, which is approximately 2.2 feet above the ordinary high water level of 812.8 feet
  • The current lake level is approximately 8.4 inches below the berm that separates Lake Hiawatha from the Hiawatha Golf Course

Mooney Lake (Plymouth)

  • Yesterday's (July 2) Mooney Lake reading was 990.04 feet above sea level, which is approximately 2 feet above the ordinary high water level of 988 feet
  • The Mooney Lake emergency pump is turned on whenever the lake level reaches the elevation of 990 feet between March – September and will remain on until the lake falls below 989 feet
  • MCWD in coordination with the City of Plymouth and the City of Wayzata collectively determined that all the necessary parameters had been met and the emergency pumps were turned on April 19 and continue to operate
  • During the pumping, MCWD will monitor downstream water bodies to see if any high water conditions exist  

Record Setting Precipitation

The spring of 2019 was exceptionally wet which continued a record setting wet trend that started in 2013. The MN Department of Natural Resources (DNR) State Climatology office has observed that 2013 - 2018 finished as the wettest six-year period on record since record keeping began in the 1870s. During those six years an extra year’s worth of precipitation fell (~30 inches), meaning we have received seven years’ worth of rain in a six-year period.

The start of 2019 continued this wet trend not only across Minnesota but across the entire contiguous United States. The Twin Cities experienced the third wettest start to a year on record (Jan. 1 – May 27) with 15.61 inches of precipitation.
As of July 2, this has resulted in the Twin Cities being 6.35 inches above average in precipitation for the year:

The 2019 spring flooding resulted in over $32 million in estimated damages to public property and infrastructure across 50 counties and four tribal nations across the State of Minnesota.

MCWD's Effort to Reduce Flooding

This winter was unique. We experienced a wet fall and the ground froze to a deep depth while soils were still saturated. Additionally, the amount of snow we received held 2.5 - 4.5 inches of water content, much of which melted quickly due to early March rains. MCWD is trying to balance the water budget across our entire 178 square miles and is working hard to reduce and prevent flooding. The balancing act this spring has been one of diligent timing:

  • With assistance from creek communities and MPRB, MCWD tracked and responded to ice jams along Minnehaha Creek to prevent flooding
  • MCWD got the Gray’s Bay dam operational while over 4-feet of ice surrounded the dam structure
  • On March 21, 2019 (one month before ice-out) MCWD began discharging water at the Gray’s Bay dam as soon as the risk of ice jams along Minnehaha Creek had diminished
  • MCWD has gradually increased the discharge at the Gray’s Bay dam as soon as Minnehaha Creek started to gain additional capacity  
  • MCWD is now trying to balance forecasted precipitation and its impacts on water levels and making adjustments when we can
  • Significant winter snowpack (11th snowiest season on record), deep frost, increased soil moisture, quick spring thaw, and the above average precipitation this spring have caused high water levels across the state of Minnesota

Looking Ahead and Coordination with Agency Experts

The seven day forecast from the National Weather Service shows approximately 0.50 inches of rain, however, the two-week outlook calls for average to above average precipitation.

Since March, MCWD has been actively coordinating with staff from the National Weather Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Hennepin County Emergency Management to understand spring flooding predictions, water content of snow, current stream flows, and emergency coordination efforts. Prior to snowmelt, MCWD ran several hydrologic snowmelt modeling scenarios to identify the locations that could face potential spring flood risk. We coordinated the results of this modeling, as well as modeling for the upcoming rain event, with all 29 communities in the MCWD.
 
MCWD will continue to coordinate daily with agency partners, National Weather Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Hennepin County Emergency Management to consult and review data to help inform Gray's Bay Dam operations.

The National Weather Service provides MCWD with seven-day precipitation forecasts and a prediction for how that precipitation will affect water levels. With this information, we can proactively create storage for the forecasted precipitation. Dam discharge can then be reduced before rainstorms and that storage is used to prevent flooding on Minnehaha Creek. MCWD also uses real-time weather data provided by Hennepin West Mesonet weather stations installed on MCWD properties and real-time water level data from the U.S. Geological Survey gauges on Lake Minnetonka and Minnehaha Creek.

Tips for Property Owners

Get the latest information by visiting our website and signing up for email updates.

Review your insurance coverage. There is a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy takes effect. Learn more about flood insurance. Check to see if your policy covers sanitary sewer back-ups. More information is available from the Insurance Information Institute. Other resources include:

For specific questions about local flood response, including where to find sand bags and other resources, contact your city.

Minnehaha Creek

  • Edina – Dave Goergen, Public Works Coordinator, 952-826-0312
  • Hopkins - Hopkins Public Works, 952-939-1382
  • Minneapolis - 311 or 612-673-3000
  • Minnetonka – Minnetonka Public Works, 952-988-8400 between 7am-3:30pm
  • St. Louis Park – Steve Koering, Fire Chief, 612-790-4019

Lake Minnetonka

  • Deephaven – Dana Young, City Administrator, 952-358-9939
  • Excelsior - Tim Amundsen, Public Works Superintendent, 952-653-3676
  • Greenwood - Dana Young, City Clerk, 952-358-9939
  • Orono – 952-249-4600, after hours call Dispatch at 952-258-5321
  • Wayzata – Mike Kelly, City Engineer/Director of Public Works, 952-404-5316

Water Level Resources