Partnering with the city of Hugo to create a sustainable water reuse strategy

By Mark Erichson, Pete Willenbring, Kendra Fallon and Ray Theiler, WSB

About 10 years ago, the City of Hugo was looking for feasible options to reduce the amount of potable water used to irrigate green spaces within the city. At that time, approximately one-half of the water the city pumped from its municipal wells was used for irrigation. The city was also facing the need to add wells, water towers, and treatment to provide enough capacity for this use. Studies indicated the cost for these facilities was going to increase water bills significantly, and the MDNR was reluctant to grant additional groundwater appropriation permits in the area.       

To address this issue, the city and WSB staff developed a list of potential options, and the city commissioned WSB to focus on completing  a series of studies to determine if it would be technically, financially, and politically feasible to collect, store, and re-use stormwater runoff instead of city well water for this purpose. Furthermore, the study was focused on potentially utilizing existing stormwater retention and treatment ponds that are currently in-place throughout the city for this purpose. As part of these studies, initial evaluations focused on the ability to implement this type of program for the city’s largest irrigation users. These evaluations found that providing stormwater for re-use to these users was indeed feasible, and furthermore, when properly set-up, residents were enthusiastic supporters of the practice and program. Following these initial successes, our team began to coordinate with city staff and local partners to fund, design, and construct other reuse systems. 

Reducing, reusing, and replenishing water resources is now a city prioritized conservation practice. All new development projects are required to collect and treat stormwater, and install stormwater reuse systems for irrigation when feasible and practical. This reuse also significantly reduces the volume of stormwater and the pollutant load that is discharged downstream of the sites, further benefiting downstream natural resources such as wetlands, lakes, and rivers. 

We continue to offer guidance about sites that may be a good fit for reuse systems. When these are identified, we work with city staff and the local watershed district to identify and secure grant funding for new projects and encourage developers to implement water conservation practices such as stormwater reuse. Several private developments have been able to take advantage of this partnership, including the Oneka Ridge Golf Course and the Water’s Edge Homeowners Association, a 1,000 unit housing development.  Grants have funded between 25 and 85 percent of reuse projects. Where projects utilize water reuse which exceeds what is required for stormwater management, volume reduction credits are banked. These credits are tracked by the City and can be purchased by developers for future projects where site constraints make onsite stormwater treatment difficult. 

Shifting the public perception of water reuse is important to a project’s success. We partnered with city officials to facilitate neighborhood meetings to educate residents on water reuse and its benefits. Public living in proximity to these reuse projects will benefit greatly by improved water quality in adjacent downstream water bodies, while also reducing reliance on our stressed groundwater resources.

Stormwater reuse offers a number of financial and environmental benefits to the city of Hugo and its residents. By identifying and utilizing alternate water resources to reduce potable water demands, the city is able to reduce the stress placed on its water system, possibly postponing or eliminating the need for additional water infrastructure improvements such as wells, towers and size of trunk watermain facilities.

As groundwater demands increase, Hugo and WSB will continue to work together to change local water use practices and attitudes towards water reuse and water conservation. 

Please contact us to learn more about how to incorporate more water reuse strategies in your community.

A hole-in-one solution

Creating a sustainable water reuse system for the Rochester Golf & Country Club

By Bob Barth, Director of Land Development, WSB

For over 100 years, the Rochester Golf & Country Club has been a fixture in its community. Since opening, land around the course developed, but the rolling greens of the Country Club still attract golfers as they did in the early 1900s when a group of avid golfers leased 100 acres from two Mayo Clinic doctors.

The Decorah Shale effect
The landscape 100 years ago was very different than it is today. As development occurred throughout the area, the course began to experience water issues. The course is located on the Decorah Shale Geologic Formation, an over 60-foot-thick layer of shale bedrock. Water passes through the impermeable shale layer slowly, causing drainage issues for many properties throughout southeastern Minnesota. In the case of the golf course, water is unable to penetrate the shallow shale layer located below the surface of the course, creating drainage issues and pockets of standing water on fairways and greens.

The most inexperienced golfer knows that standing water on a golf course leads to playability issues. At one point, there were playability issues on seven of the 18 holes – equating to 3,000 feet of playing conditions that had standing water or drainage problems. The County Club reached out to our team at WSB to find a sustainable solution to the chronic water issues that plagued the historic course.

Keeping greens, green
Golf courses use a lot of water and droughts or excess water negatively impact course profitability and sustainability. Like many Minnesota courses, Rochester Golf & Country Club uses groundwater for irrigation. However, the playability issues caused by the Decorah Shale are unique. Research and studies have criticized golf courses over the years for chemical and water use, particularly groundwater. Recently, many courses have taken strides to become more environmentally sensitive and eco-friendly. Rochester Golf & Country Club approached their golf course renovation project with sustainability in mind and decided to reuse the seepage water and surface water as a partial replacement for the groundwater they used for irrigation. This process allowed them to improve their environmental footprint.

Creating a solution out of the problem
WSB performed a rigorous rainfall and runoff analysis to determine the amount of available seepage and runoff water. The analysis included long-duration simulations of water yield and irrigation using state-of-the-art hydraulic modeling software. Every water reuse project is unique. Most of the land that Rochester Golf & Country Club sits on drains in a single direction, making it easier to capture seepage and runoff water. This efficiency of drainage created a single point of collection into a new irrigation pond.

After completing the reuse analysis, we worked with the Country Club and an irrigation design consultant to design the irrigation pond, pump station and pump house, the collection system to deliver water to the irrigation pond, and the outlet works from the pond to the public system. Drainage tile was placed under the fairway turf to allow water to feed into the irrigation pond. In the past, the Country Club used over 10 million gallons of groundwater for irrigation, annually. With the new water reuse and drainage system, the course’s groundwater usage dropped to 4 million gallons. The water reuse system can pump as much as 1,500 gallons per minute into the irrigation system. The reuse system also alleviates the need to tap into the city’s water supply and ensures that the course can stay watered even when conservation restrictions are in place.

Full-circle sustainability
The Rochester Golf & Country Club is dedicated to sustainability beyond water reuse and has established an on-site, 10,000-square-foot garden that supplies fresh produce to their executive chef. Additionally, the club is home to 400,000 honey bees, an effort to protect the honey bees’ declining population. Throughout the Country Club’s recent restoration, they have paid close attention to reusing available resources including creating benches out of downed trees and repurposing old cart path rock for new cart path base layers.

A fresh start in 2019
The course has been under construction since 2016 and reopened this spring. Under the direction of renowned golf course architect Tom Doak, the acclaimed 18-hole golf course went through a substantial renovation to restore the course to its original 1925 A.W. Tillinghast design.

Golf is a significant economic driver in Minnesota and water plays a vital role in keeping these courses busy throughout the golf season. In addition to our work on the Rochester Golf and Country Club, WSB has developed water reuse systems and measures for Oneka Ridge Golf Course in Hugo and Eagle Valley Golf Course in Woodbury.


Bob is a Principal at WSB with over 20-years of experience providing technical and management support to public and private clients. Bob’s special expertise in water resources management, infrastructure planning, project development, and land development make him an effective and trusted adviser on a variety of projects.