Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies

Committee Chair

Neva Hassanein

Commitee Members

Robin Saha, Ken Meter


Industrial agriculture, CAFO, water use, Minnesota, factory farm


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies | Food Studies


Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are highly concentrated feedlots that raise large numbers of livestock with an emphasis on efficiency and maximizing output. Hog and dairy feedlots in Minnesota are shrinking in number, yet growing in size. In hand with the rise of CAFOs, water scarcity is a growing concern as the effects of climate change worsen and the human population increases. Though Minnesota is a state of abundant water, it is not evenly distributed throughout the state raising concerns about sustainable water usage.

This paper describes and analyzes how Minnesota’s water appropriation permit system is overseeing water usage in large CAFOs. By analyzing government documents and data, this study estimates the amount of water large dairy and hog CAFOs used in 2017 in Minnesota to be about 2.3 billion gallons. Geographic concentration of CAFO development was apparent, with large hog CAFOs being largely developed in south-central Minnesota and large dairy CAFOs largely developed in central Minnesota. As a result, Pomme de Terre River watershed was the most heavily used watershed for hog and dairy CAFO watering in 2017. The five most heavily used watersheds are all located in the Minnesota River Basin. Riverview LLP was the CAFO owner with the highest reported water use in 2017, using one quarter of all water use in large hog and dairy CAFOs. Ultimately, about 2/3 of large hog and dairy CAFOs did not have water appropriation permits so their water use is unknown. Using a guide to livestock watering use by Swine Extension Educator Sam Baidoo, this report estimates unreported water use could be about 1 billion gallons of water for 2017. More comprehensive and reliable data is needed to gain a clearer understanding of water use in this group. This research will inform the work of Land Stewardship Project (LSP), which is an advocacy nonprofit based in Minnesota, as well as state government agencies, water researchers, and local citizens.



© Copyright 2019 Dara Meredith Fedrow