Caption: Researchers collect data on water quality by using an electrofishing boat to stun and catch fish.
This summer the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency started a 5-year effort to monitor Minnesota’s five largest rivers — the Mississippi, Minnesota, Rainy, Red and St. Croix.
The first to be targeted is the Mississippi. During the 2013-14 monitoring seasons, the Mississippi River will be monitored from its headwaters in Itasca State Park down to St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis.
MPCA monitoring crews are also about half way through a 10-year effort to assess the condition of smaller rivers, streams and lakes throughout Minnesota’s 81 watersheds. The Mississippi River, from its headwaters to Minneapolis, has 15 smaller watersheds that flow into it. By combining the results of ongoing monitoring in these smaller watersheds with the results from monitoring the Mississippi, the MPCA can obtain a more complete picture of the condition of our waterways, and help further identify potential problem areas.
"We look at the fish communities, aquatic insects, and do some habitat assessment work." says Mike Feist, a MPCA research scientist. "We also take water chemistry samples and assess the condition of the state's waters and make sure they are fishable and swimmable." Fish tissue samples are also taken to update fish consumption advisories.
Once the accumulated data is analyzed by the MPCA, a clearer picture of the Mississippi’s health will emerge. If the samples don't meet water quality standards, the MPCA will look more closely at what could be causing the impairments and find ways to correct the problems.