John Weiss, community stream monitor, from the banks of the Zumbro River
This year’s leaves, now brown-yellow and crinkled, crunched as I walked over them today. In the Zumbro River at Oxbow Park, I saw some leaves already hung up on rocks and sticks in the river — more will come, more will come. I won’t see them, however, because I’m calling it quits a bit early due to family obligations.
As usual, it’s bittersweet, saying goodbye to the river and adding another year of data.
I’m also leaving with a puzzle that has been twisting me all year — what is happening to the Zumbro River? Why won’t it get clearer and cleaner? We had a lot of rain but even after several days of no rain, the river still didn’t get clear. I don’t remember that being such a problem a decade ago when the water would be clearer after a few days without rain.
This year’s average reading was 33.9 centimeters with only one at 100 centimeters. The annual low was a record for me — 1 centimeter. That was one dirty river. The average for Oxbow Park for 2016, 2017, and 2018 is 38.6 centimeters.
To compare, in 2005, 2006, and 2007, the average was 50.3 centimeters but it was actually better than that. My transparency tube only goes down to 100 centimeters and there were several times in 2005 when the black-and-white disc was clear at 100. The true reading was probably more like 200 or 300 centimeters. Still, that means the 2016-18 average is 23% lower than 2005-07.
So where does that leave me? A bit discouraged and a bit perplexed. But I’m also working on writing a brochure for the Zumbro’s Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies document and in that I’m seeing some hope. It clearly lays out what and where the problem is with total suspended solids (the crud that lowers my readings) and nitrates. Then it suggests remedies.
Any improvements will take a lot of time, money, and commitment. Until then, I’ll keep monitoring and hoping.
My final action this year will be to enter my data and send it to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency where it will be added to data from hundreds of other monitors.