ST. PAUL — The worsening drought in Minnesota calls for restrictions on and reductions of water use in three of the state's major watersheds, regulators said Wednesday, Aug. 18.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said that morning it would formally notify public water suppliers in the affected watersheds to implement the reductions, which are intended to achieve usage levels 25% above January levels. Residents of the Mississippi River Headwaters, Rainy River and Red River watersheds would then be contacted by their suppliers about measures they are enacting, which could include limits on nonessential water uses such as sprinklers or at-home car washes.

The watersheds are the first in Minnesota to be placed under the "restrictive phase" found on the drought scale implemented in the state in 2000. Arid conditions have only worsened since mid-July, when all of Minnesota was moved under a "drought warning" phase on the scale.

In a news release Wednesday, the DNR said between 5 to 9 inches of precipitation would have to fall over Minnesota over the period of about one month to "significantly alleviate" the drought.

Though the drought is not as severe as the one that affected Minnesota from 1988 to 1989, the department said Wednesday, it is serious enough in the newly ranked areas of the state to trigger measures laid out in the Minnesota Statewide Drought Plan. The DNR said it would also notify water permit holders to reduce nonessential use, which could take the form of scaled-down irrigation practices, among other things.