The MPCA recently approved the Buffalo River Watershed Restoration and Protection Report for the Buffalo River watershed in northwestern Minnesota. This watershed, mostly used for agriculture, covers more than 1,100 square miles in portions of Clay, Becker, Wilkin and Otter Tail counties.
Water quality problems in this area include:
- Excess nutrient levels that can cause algal blooms that hurt aquatic life like fish and recreation like swimming.
- Bacteria levels that can make the water unsafe for swimming.
- Sediment — soil and other matter — that clouds the water and may make it unsuitable for aquatic life and recreation.
The poor water quality conditions reflect the intensely farmed landscape, human changes to hydrology, intensive drainage, and lack of buffers around lakes and streams. Restoration strategies will need to focus on reducing phosphorus, sediment, and bacteria through livestock management, nutrient management, wind breaks, buffers, and other best management practices.
As the report summary says, “Pollutant reductions needed to correct impaired waters are large and will be challenging to accomplish. A coordinated, long-term, sustained effort will be needed to both restore the impaired waters and to protect the others from being degraded down to an impaired condition.”