Skip to main content

Advanced volunteer water monitoring

On an assigned lake, advanced volunteer water monitors perform extra tasks in addition the duties of regular volunteers: measuring temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles, alkalinity, chloride, chlorophyll, color, nitrogen, phosphorus, and solids.

At least two individuals must commit to advanced monitoring on one lake for one or two seasons, depending on agency requirements. Volunteers must:

  • have participated in the volunteer monitoring program for at least two years (at least one of the applicants).
  • have access to a boat.
  • monitor from May through September.
  • complete necessary paperwork.
  • ship samples for laboratory analysis.

The MPCA has the resources to support advanced volunteer monitoring on about five lakes in a season. The agency will choose lakes for which it lacks sufficient data to determine if they meet water quality standards protecting recreation. The agency will also prioritize lakes smaller than 500 acres that have a public access, beach, or right of way, and are in the same region as other lakes in the program.

MPCA staff will train advanced volunteer water monitors in proper monitoring and sample collection techniques. The agency will also provide necessary monitoring equipment and pay shipping and laboratory analysis fees.

All data collected will be entered into the statewide water quality database, and the agency will create a report summarizing the data. Learn more:

If interested in this opportunity, email by January 31 of the monitoring year.

Monitor water quality in the Boundary Waters

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) is the most heavily used wilderness in the country, and visitors can play an important role in monitoring its lakes. If you're planning a trip to the Boundary Waters, contact us! The MPCA provides a monitoring kit, and it can be used on any lake in the BWCA. No prior experience or training is needed. It only takes a few minutes to measure water clarity as you paddle, and it's a great activity for both adults and kids.

Volunteers collect some of the only data available on lakes in the BWCA; the MPCA lacks the resources to access the area for regular monitoring. Volunteer-collected data are also used in the University of Minnesota’s Remote Sensing initiative, which uses satellite imagery to monitor lake clarity in the state.

Contact us at, 800-657-3864 and provide the dates of your next trip. You will receive a lake monitoring kit before you leave. When you're back, return the kit in the provided postage-paid envelope.

Lake ice reporting

The formation and break-up of ice are important milestones for a lake each year. Tracking the ice-on and ice-off dates is important to understanding a lake’s seasonal cycles and the effects of climate change.

Volunteers record this information for hundreds of lakes in Minnesota and submit it to the MPCA. If you're already a volunteer water monitor, you can include ice data in your annual reporting. Learn more about ice reporting on the Volunteer resources page.

To sign up, email us at with:

  • your name, address and phone number.
  • name of the lake you are reporting on and the county it's in.
  • the Lake ID number found in LakeFinder (Minnesota DNR).

The MPCA makes the volunteer-collected ice data available to anyone interested in using and studying it. We also share it with the Minnesota State Climatology Office.

Other volunteer science opportunities

In Minnesota, there are dozens of programs that train and support thousands of volunteer scientists. Volunteer-collected data are regularly used in decision-making and conservation efforts. Find a program that excites you and join in.