July is Lakes Appreciation Month, and we’re celebrating the more than 700 Minnesotans who show their love for our lakes as volunteer lake monitors. Every two weeks in the summer, they measure water clarity in more than 900 lakes around the state to help us track water quality issues. Our volunteers help the MPCA expand its monitoring capabilities by gathering valuable water quality data. For many of the lakes they monitor, it may be the only water quality information we have.
Water clarity is an important indicator of lake and stream health; it shows the amount of light penetration into the water. For lakes, a low clarity reading usually indicates excess algae. Algae growth is fueled by excess nutrients in the water, particularly phosphorus. Preventing excess nutrients in lakes and rivers is a long-term goal that will involve changing agricultural practices, properly managing municipal stormwater, using in-lake treatments, reinforcing shorelines, and much more.
For lake monitoring, volunteers must have access to a watercraft, so they can get out into the lake. (Stream monitors work from bridges or streambanks.) They lower a tool called a Secchi disk into the water and measure how deep it is when it’s no longer visible. They also note visible algae levels that could interfere with swimming and other recreation. The MPCA provides the equipment and training, and no experience is needed.
You can join them by visiting the Volunteer water monitoring pages – find a monitoring location with our map tool and sign up! Our lakes will appreciate it!