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Untold millions of gallons of water can be saved by taking some simple steps that will end up saving money for homes and businesses.

That was the message delivered Wednesday at an east metro water use forum by a group of experts who are pioneering strategies to zero in on who's wasting the most water and how to throttle back cheaply and efficiently.

The east metro area is under the microscope these days, as state officials take steps to assess the threat to aquifers.

The state, in turn, is under the gun due to high-powered litigation — rooted in the dramatic water level drop in White Bear Lake — aimed at quickening its own efforts in managing water use.

Dozens of county, city, watershed and other officials in Washington County heard reports Wednesday in Stillwater from Woodbury city staffers and officials from the University of Minnesota.

The U's MnTAP technical assistance program determined that big industrial users such as chemical firms and nurseries are able to find huge reductions with expert help, said Mick Jost, project leader.

A final report is coming out soon, but in the meantime MnTAP this week has released key details in an online magazine outlining some of its efforts, he said.

For example, Bailey Nurseries of Woodbury learned it could save 38 million gallons of water a year in just one part of its operation by capturing and reusing irrigation water.

Woodbury utilities superintendent Jim Westerman said that his city is homing in on turf irrigation as low-hanging fruit, and projecting big results.

Working with homeowners' associations to make smarter use of sprinklers with rain sensors, and similar ideas, have already cut use by nearly 10 million gallons of groundwater in 2017 just for first users, Westerman said.

As the program expands, officials hope for savings of nearly 50 million gallons within a few years, he said, "and that's a really conservative estimate — it could well be 100 million gallons. We've identified 400 million gallons citywide as the opportunity for savings that's out there."

David Peterson • 651-925-5039