Technical Underpinnings Work Group

June 18, 2013

Update: October 16, 2013


Part 327, Great Lakes Preservation, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act requires the development and implementation of an internet-based assessment tool [a.k.a. the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool (WWAT)] to determine the significance of proposed large quantity surface water and groundwater withdrawals relative to impacts on resident fish populations (i.e. Zone A, B, C or D) and whether a proposed withdrawal is likely to cause an adverse resource impact based on the type

of river system affected by the withdrawal. An adverse resource impact for rivers and streams is defined according to the maximum allowable reductions in stream flow that results in specified reductions in the density of thriving fish populations or the abundance of characteristic fish populations by stream/river type, or decreasing the index flow by more than 25%. The statute requires the tool to contain a flow- based safety factor, account for cumulative withdrawals and to distinguish the impact of a proposed withdrawal based upon the size of the drainage area of the affected river/stream. Implementing these statutory requirements necessitates having groundwater withdrawal, hydrologic stream flow and fish population response models, and a water availability and depletion accounting system.

Part 327 requires the DEQ to add verified data from annual water use reporting, water use conservation plans and other data sources about the state’s water resources to the assessment tool’s database. Technical modifications to the tool related to considerations of temperature, hydrology and

stream/river flow must be based on a methodology adopted by the Natural Resources Commission (now the DNR Director). The DEQ may not rely on the assessment tool’s determination when making a decision on a site-specific review.


• Ensure defensible scientific assessments and analyses are used to develop and support technical frameworks for decision making in the water use program.

• Establish clear, objective criteria and transparent processes for modifying baseline information used in the decision making process.

Specific Tasks

• Develop a plan for addressing each task and meeting work group goals in consideration of other work groups’ work, sequencing of task and delivery of all final recommendations and products from the Council to the Quality of Life agencies by December 15, 2014. The plan should also identify information needed from and potential areas of overlap with other work groups, and information and support needed from the QOL agencies.

• Evaluate additional criteria and tracking mechanisms related to water depletion accounting, including but not limited to crediting for return flows, use versus capacity, identifying and including "invisible" depletions (e.g. unregistered withdrawals), and accounting for water depleted in upstream segments through connected downstream water management areas; provide recommendations related to water depletion accounting.

• Recommend improvements and updates to the function and data support systems for the water withdrawal assessment tool; considering for example, map scale and accuracy, withdrawal allocation between watersheds.

• Recommend criteria and procedures, or changes to existing criteria and procedures for determining when and how index flows, and stream temperature classifications may be adjusted.

• Provide advice on defining adverse resource impacts on inland lakes, ponds and wetlands, including but not limited to appropriate metrics, and withdrawal assessment and decision making process.

• Identify, evaluate and provide advice on additional or alternative models to support water use decision making.

• Recommend additional, existing data sources and/or criteria for considering additional, existing data sources to improve modeling results; such as geologic information, watershed-based groundwater recharge rates, hydraulic conductivity, information on currently "invisible" withdrawals, etc.

• Provide recommendations and information not specifically covered in these bullets but, in the view of the work group, are critical to meet the specified goals of the work group.

Timeline and Deliverables

• Present work group plan, including timing of presentations to the Council and proposed dates for delivery of written report(s) and recommendations to the DEQ – first Council meeting following establishment of work group

• Oral report on activities, progress and barriers to fulfilling the charge - each Council meeting

• Draft recommendations and guidance for the Council’s consideration - TBD

• Present background and draft recommendations at full Council meetings - TBD

• Prepare reports for consideration by the full Council, including a brief summary of pertinent background information, recommendations around which there is work group consensus, recommendations around which there was discussion but no consensus, and other areas that should be explored or require additional work – TBD

• Revise and finalize reports based on feedback from the Council, such that the findings and recommendations reflect the views of the Council rather than the Work Group - TBD/Complete by December 15, 2014.


George Carr – Co chair
Dave Hamilton (Rich Bowman) – Co chair
Bryan Burroughs
Jim Byrum (Mike Wenkel)
James Clift (Grenetta Thomassey)
Abby Eaton
Brian Eggers
Dave Lusch
Howard Reeves
Jill VanDyke
Troy Zorn