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Citizen water monitoring

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Do you live near a lake or stream in Minnesota, or visit one regularly? If so, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency needs your help.

How you can help

Become a citizen lake or stream volunteer and help gather vital information about the health of our water resources. Volunteers measure the clarity of lakes and streams, collecting valuable data the MPCA uses to make decisions on watershed protection and restoration. For some lakes and streams, data collected by volunteers are the only data available, making this work indispensable.

Join more than 1,400 Minnesotans who track the health of their favorite lake or stream through the Citizen Lake and Stream Monitoring Programs!

See more information about other volunteer opportunities.

Volunteer duties

As a volunteer, you will use simple equipment provided by the MPCA to measure transparency at a designated location on your lake or stream each week, from April through September. Transparency, or water clarity, is an important indicator of lake or stream health.

At the end of the summer, all volunteers return their completed datasheets to the MPCA to be compiled with other valuable water quality data.

Lake volunteers

  • need access to a watercraft such as canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, or motor boats
  • use a Secchi disc attached to a calibrated rope to measure transparency

Stream volunteers

  • can monitor any stream or river that flows year round
  • collect a water sample from a safe location on a bridge or the stream bank, and use a Secchi tube to measure transparency
  • are encouraged to join CoCoRaHS - Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, a national network of precipitation observers.

 

See more detailed descriptions of volunteer duties.

Find out more about who volunteers to monitor lakes and streams.

Video: Citizen lake and stream monitoring

 

We also offer detailed instruction manuals and videos to help you with your monitoring duties, including:

CLMP-handbook PDF Document Citizen Lake Monitoring Program Instruction Manual (wq-s1-13)

 

 

 

 

CSMP-manual PDF Document Citizen Stream Monitoring Program Instruction Manual (wq-csm1-05)

 

 

 

 

 

Video: Citizen water testers in action (Minnesota 2020 video)

Could you be our next volunteer?

By Tom Niemisto, MN2020 Video Production Specialist

Sign up

It’s easy to become a citizen water monitoring volunteer! No prior experience or training is necessary. To get started, submit an enrollment form:

Once enrolled, we can help you identify a specific monitoring location and will send you a complete monitoring kit, including written instructions, datasheets, and training videos.

For more information

If you need additional information or assistance, please contact a Citizen Monitoring Coordinator:

800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota)
651-296-6300 (Twin Cities metro area)
Lakes - clmp.pca@state.mn.us
Streams - csmp.pca@state.mn.us


Results

For some lakes and streams in Minnesota, data collected by Citizen Lake and Stream Monitoring Program volunteers are the only data available, making this work very valuable.

More about transparency readings and what they tell us about lakes and streams.

Individual site citizen monitoring reports are available for the most recent monitoring season.

The MPCA uses volunteer water clarity, or transparency, data for two primary purposes:

Volunteer toolbox

Data sheets

Instruction manuals

Training videos

Sampling reminders

CLMP

How to take and record Secchi readings

Readings should ideally be taken once a week, at least three days apart, primarily during the months of June through September between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on bright, calm days. A minimum of two readings per month is needed to provide meaningful information about your lake. You should select ONE location, well off-shore and in a deep and centrally located part of the lake, and continue monitoring at that one site throughout the summer. Do not wear sunglasses while taking a reading, as this affects the accuracy of your reading. If you wear photogradient prescription eyeglasses, please try to prevent them from darkening by wearing a hat or vision with a wide brim.

  • Travel to your designated monitoring location and then anchor your boat.
  • Lower the Secchi disc into the lake on the shaded side of the boat until the disc just disappears completely from view1. Note the disc’s depth using the marks on the rope.
  • Lower the disc a bit farther and then raise it until it just reappears, then note this depth.
  • Average the two depths to the nearest 1/2 foot to get the Transparency Reading.
  • Record this average in the appropriate column on the Secchi Datasheet. Also record the date and time of this reading. If you monitor more than one location (site) on a lake, each site must have a SEPARATE datasheet.

Additional lake monitoring information

Following the “Transparency” column, are columns for recording additional information that will help to accurately denote what is taking place in and around your lake. The first two columns ask for an assessment of the amount of algae present and for its effect on the recreational suitability of the. It is important to note that if you do fill out these columns, you should do so before you take your Secchi reading to keep your observations from being biased by your knowledge of the transparency.

CSMP

CSMP sampling reminders

Readings should ideally be taken once a week, during the months of April through September. A minimum of one reading per month is needed to provide meaningful information about your stream. You should select ONE sampling location, aim to collect water from mid-stream and mid-depth if possible, and continue monitoring at that one site throughout the season. Do not wear sunglasses while taking a reading, as this affects the accuracy of your reading. If you wear photogradient prescription eyeglasses, please try to prevent them from darkening by wearing a hat or vision with a wide brim.

  1. Please check your datasheets for legibility. If we can’t decipher your data, we can’t use your data!
  2. Record Appearance, Recreational Suitability, Rain Event = Yes/No, and Stream Stage Estimate every time you sample. It is important to record these observations before you take a transparency readingto keep your observations from being biased by your knowledge of the transparency.
  3. The scales for “Appearance” and “Recreational Suitability” range from 1—5. Please choose only one number (“2-3” or “3+” will not be used).
  4. Note that the “Appearance” scale distinguishes “1A (Clear)” reading from “1B (Tea-colored).”
  5. When measuring transparency with your Secchi tube, remove sunglasses and turn your back to the sun to shade the tube before taking a reading.
  6. Please estimate the water level at your site each time you sample. For assistance with determining which “Stream Stage Estimate” category to record, please refer to the following descriptions:

Stream stage estimate (L,N,H,Z,D):

Stream Stage Estimate

Low, Normal, High, No Flow, and Dry are broad categories so don’t agonize too much over which to choose.

L=low. Water covers 1/3 or less of the distance from the stream bottom to the top of the bank.

N=normal. Water covers 1/3 to 2/3 of the distance from the stream bottom to the top of the bank.

H=high. Water covers 2/3 or more of the distance from the stream bottom to the top of the bank. Water may be over the stream bank – flooding - at some point.

Z=no flow. Disconnected stagnant pools/puddles without observable flow.

D=dry. Stream channel is dry.

Please submit your stream datasheet by October 31, 2014. Thank you!

Transparency Times newsletter

This is the combined newsletter for MPCA's citizen water-monitoring programs.

  • GovDelivery Archive September 2014 External Link
    Inside: Time to submit your 2014 Secchi transparency data; How's the water? Come on in and find out!; Openings for Advanced Citizen Lake Monitoring in 2015; Treatment for dogs sickened by algal toxins; Lake Volney featured in Lakeline Magazine; Submit lake ice data on your annual Secchi datasheet; How clear does the Secchi disk have to be?; State adopts new rules for river nutrients & suspended solids; Bighead & silver carp found in Pool 2 of Mississippi River
  • GovDelivery Archive May 2014 External Link
    Inside: 2013 Citizen monitoring reports ready for viewing!; Photo contest winners; Field sampling reminders; MPCA begins 2014 water quality monitoring field work throughout Minnesota; Funding available for city and county water projects; Citizen Lake Monitoring Program news; Highlighting Jim Christianson - 25 Years of Lake Monitoring; Citizen Stream Monitoring Program news; Volunteers needed for one-day atrazine testing in the Mississippi River
  • GovDelivery Archive January 2014 External Link
    Inside: Thank you for submitting 2013 Citizen Monitoring data!; How your transparency measurements are used...; MPCA’s Watershed Approach to restoring and protecting water quality; Looking for the best CMP photos of 2013!; DNR LoonWatcher survey; New water quality standards for river eutrophication and total suspended solids; Minnesota state water trails; Citizen monitoring staff updates

Yearbook of volunteers

Reflections-2012 PDF Document “Reflections” Volunteer Recognition Yearbook (wq-s1-54)

For more information

If you need additional information or assistance, please contact a Citizen Monitoring Coordinator:

Contacts

If you need additional information or assistance, please contact a Citizen Monitoring Coordinator:

800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota)
651-296-6300 (Twin Cities metro area)
Lakes - clmp.pca@state.mn.us
Streams - csmp.pca@state.mn.us

For WHEP or SHEP, contact Joel Chirhart, 651-757-2273

For more information

Last modified on July 31, 2014 10:33

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