Minneapolis parks feature more than 20 hand-pump drinking wells and more than 150 outdoor drinking fountains. While the fountains are connected to the city-operated water system, the wells provide groundwater from bedrock aquifers more than 100 feet deep (so does one drinking fountain at Park Siding Park, using an electric pump).

Seasonal shutoffs, needed repairs, or water quality can result in wells or fountains being closed. Click on those topics below for more information. Whenever possible, closed fountains and wells are identified with tags noting the reason for the closure.

Please note that the MPRB cannot guarantee the availability of drinking water at a particular location or time. Recommended options for distance runners, cyclists or others who might require water include checking a water source themselves ahead of time, locating alternatives while planning a route or carrying water.

Closing and opening wells and fountains for the season

Why do hand-pump wells and fountains need to close?

The pipes connected to wells and outdoor fountains are subject to freezing. Costly damage can occur if water remains in these pipes for even one night when temperatures fall below 32 degrees. To prevent that damage, all outdoor plumbing systems must be shut down in the fall and started up in the spring. In addition to wells and drinking fountains, outdoor plumbing systems include pools, irrigation systems and decorative fountains — about 350 systems in all.

When do seasonal shutoffs and startups occur?

  • Shutdown begins in September after Labor Day and is usually completed by November 15.
  • Startup begins in mid-April at the earliest, and depends on low temperatures. Typically most systems are up and running by Memorial Day.
  • Timing and weather forecasts are a key consideration to avoid frozen or burst pipes. In spring, staff must be reasonably certain that temperatures will remain above freezing; in fall, the goal is to complete the shutdown for all plumbing systems before the first hard freeze.

Why do some wells or fountains close before others?

The seasonal process of starting up or shutting down 350 plumbing systems can take a number of weeks. In the fall, plumbers aim to leave drinking fountains and wells open as late as possible, along with plumbing systems at event rental sites. In the spring, they prioritize startup of these systems.

Repairing wells and fountains

The process to repair a malfunctioning well or fountain can be lengthy. Once a malfunction is reported, steps to making a repair include:

  • Identify the location and nature of problem: within hand-pump or fountain mechanisms, well casing, water lines, etc.
  • Order replacement parts and schedule repairs.
  • Solicit and award bids from certified contractors, if necessary.
  • Coordinate and schedule the repair, based on staff resources and other park system needs that may take priority.

Monitoring and testing water quality

Drinking fountains

Water from MPRB’s drinking fountains must meet the same standards as all tap water produced by the City of Minneapolis. Find out more about the city’s public drinking water system.

Hand-pump wells

Groundwater drawn from hand-pump wells (and a single drinking fountain) must be tested for coliform and E. Coli bacteria prior to opening for the season. If these bacteria are present, the well is chlorinated and re-tested until results are negative and the water quality is in compliance with State of Minnesota Health Code. This testing is coordinated with the City of Minneapolis.

Get more information on drinking wells from the City of Minneapolis’ Environmental Health division or call 612-673-5807 during normal business hours.

Long-term closures

Some wells in Minneapolis parks were drilled more than 100 years ago, long before modern regulations were established. Due to their age, they may have ongoing issues with water quality and site conditions. MPRB is working with the Minneapolis Health Department, the Minnesota Department of Health and consultants to determine alternatives and options for these wells. Those could include repair, a replacement water source, and/or a permanent seal.

These wells are currently closed due to long-term water quality issues:

  • Powderhorn Park – East 32nd Street and 14th Avenue South (the park’s other two wells are open, near East 35th Street and 15th Avenue South and near East 33rd Street and 10th Avenue South)
  • Stevens Square
  • Minnehaha Parkway at Portland Avenue (next to “The Minnehaha Bunny” sculpture)
  • West River Parkway, north of East 29th Street