Contacts: Cathy Rofshus, 507-206-2608
St. Paul, Minn. -- A drop of rain falling in Belle Creek will flow to the Cannon River and then to the Mississippi. In a similar fashion, a recording of water quality of Belle Creek will flow to the Cannon River Watershed Project and then to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
At Belle Creek in Goodhue County, BJ Norman will celebrate her 10th year this July as a volunteer in the MPCA's Citizen Stream Monitoring Program (CSMP) and for the Cannon River Watershed Partnership. As a volunteer, Norman uses a transparency tube to measure the clarity of the stream. She also measures and records rainfall in the area. After a decade, she can rattle off terms and history like any veteran scientist. She understands that it takes time to build a database and to identify trends. "You get interested in it, and after awhile, you get protective," Norman said.
The MPCA launched the CSMP in 1998, with 17 volunteers monitoring 22 sites. Now, 800 volunteers monitor nearly 1,300 stream locations across the state. The MPCA works with local partners, like the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, to recruit volunteers and to share data.
The data that Norman and other volunteers gather are valuable because sometimes they are the only information that the MPCA and its partners have for some rivers and streams. Data are also the first step toward protecting or cleaning up a stream or river because they help the MPCA and its partners determine whether the water meets federal and state water-quality standards.
Beth Kallestad, executive director of the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, understands the importance of the data, the support of volunteers and the knowledge shared. The Cannon River group monitors 23 lakes, all by volunteers, and 30 stream sites, half by volunteers. The partnership collected 400 data measurements in 2007 and even more in 2008, which were submitted to the MPCA for its assessment program.
"The volunteers have provided sampling that we would not be able to do on our own, or would have cost us a lot of money," Kallestad said.
Volunteers report that water monitoring is relatively quick and easy. The time commitment is minimal, Norman said. She has incorporated the monitoring into her walking routine, sometimes going alone and often bringing family along. "The interest in it keeps you going, because it's so important," she said.
With more than 105,000 miles of streams and rivers, volunteers play an important role in measuring the health of Minnesota's lakes and streams. If you live on a stream or river, consider signing up for the Citizen Stream Monitoring Program. Stream monitoring is easy and fun. The MPCA provides you with the equipment and training.
Beginning this spring, the MPCA will be looking for more lake and stream volunteers in specific watersheds to supplement the data that the agency and other local partners will be collecting. Those watersheds include Big Fork River, Bois de Sioux River, Buffalo River, Cedar River, Chippewa River, Crow Wing River, Grand Marais Creek, Mississippi River (St. Cloud and Winona), Minnesota River (Granite Falls), Shell Rock River, St. Croix River (Stillwater) and the St. Louis River. More information about the volunteer monitoring programs is available on the MPCA's Web site at www.pca.state.mn.us/cmp or by calling 800-657-3864.