ST. CLOUD -- The water level on the Mississippi River in the St. Cloud metro area is quite low this summer with rocks and sandbars exposed in areas that most of us have never seen before.

Tracy Hodel is the Public Services Director for the city of St. Cloud. She says there are a lot of similarities between this year and 1988 as far as drought conditions, and we're getting close to the 1988 levels for water flow.

It lasted until about mid-August.  That's when the flows started coming back up because back in 1988 we got a very large wet weather pattern come in the first week of August that kind of relieved us.  Back in 1988, the driest part of Minnesota was the St. Cloud to Brainerd Area.

Hodel says the two years are so similar because in both years we started out dry in the spring and early summer.

She says other years when we saw similar low levels on the Mississippi River were in 1934 and in 1976, but in both of those years, the drought didn't really take hold until late in the summer.

The lowest the river has been this year so far was at 851 cubic feet per second, with some recent rain up north it has gone back up to 1,030 cubic feet per second.

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For much of this summer, the city of St. Cloud has been running only one of its units at the dam on the Mississippi River, due to low water levels. Hodel says so far the river has been staying just above the mark that would require them down the second unit. But, with little to no rain in the forecast, she is concerned.

Dropping 100 cubic feet per second a day up to 200 cubic feet per second a day, so if we don't get any rainfall we could definitely be under that 800 mark in St. Cloud, which is crucial for us as far as our hydro facility is concerned.  As soon as it hits under 800 we have to shut down all of the units.

Back on July 19th St. Cloud asked residents to reduce their water usage to conserve water. Hodel says they initially saw a significant drop in usage declining by as much as two million gallons a day, but water use is starting to creep back up again. She says the city would like to get down to nine million gallons used per day and right now its at 12 million gallons a day. A continued lack of rain would mean more water restrictions in the future.

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