St. Olaf College

St. Olaf College is a highly selective, residential, liberal arts campus of 2,950 students and another 800 or so employees. Essentially, a small mid-western city, or community. For many years the college operated its own wells, but changes in national water standards made it more practical to become a customer of the city of Northfield water system in 2000.


Northfield’s water is pumped from the Jordan/St. Lawrence aquifer, nearly 500 feet below ground, treated, and discharged into the system. Our campus distribution system is fully looped so that most buildings can be served from more than one direction in case there is a water main break or some other event. Pressure is provided by elevating water into the college’s 150,000 gallon tower that also provides storage in case use exceeds the gallon per minute (GPM) pumping capacity. The system also features an additional interface with the city of Northfield system in order to provide extended capabilities for fire fighting, tower, pump, or distribution maintenance, and so on.

Because Northfield falls under the Minnesota Department of Health “community water system” designation, testing goes on throughout each year. There are frequent tests for bacteria, lead, silver and copper, and less frequent tests for a variety of chemical pollutants. The water has been clean and healthy for many years.

Because the students, faculty, and staff come from across the country, it is somewhat common to hear comments on taste. Everyone's water in their hometown is somewhat different than any other system. This has more to do with the mineral content of the particular aquifer that stores each groundwater supply than anything else.  Regardless of taste issues, Northfield’s system has operated very well and safely and we have a great deal of confidence in their staff.