For more than 45 years, volunteers have gathered critically important water clarity data on Minnesota lakes and streams. For some bodies of water, volunteer monitoring provides the only data available, making this work indispensable.
Formerly known as the Citizen Lake and Stream Monitoring Programs, the new inclusive Volunteer Water Monitoring Program serves all residents of Minnesota equally. While the name of the program has changed, the work of our amazing volunteers and the impact you have on water quality throughout the state remains the same.
At least twice a month during the summer, volunteers measure water clarity using a Secchi disk or tube at designated locations on lakes or streams. During each visit, they record their Secchi disk reading and observations on the physical and recreational conditions of their lake or stream. They submit the information at the end of each monitoring season. Anyone can do it — no prior experience is needed. The MPCA uses volunteer-collected data to make decisions on watershed protection and restoration.
Join more than 1,400 Minnesotans who track the health of their favorite lake or stream — become a volunteer water monitor today!
- Can monitor any Minnesota lake
- Need access to watercraft such as a canoe, kayak, paddleboat, or motor boat
- Use a Secchi disk attached to a calibrated rope (provided by the MPCA) to measure water clarity
- Monitor from May through September
- Are encouraged to also report on lake ice
- Monitor any stream or river that flows year round
- Collect water samples from a bridge or stream bank
- Use a Secchi tube (provided by the MPCA) to measure water clarity
- Monitor from April through September
- Are encouraged to join CoCoRaHS - Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, a national network of precipitation observers
Gathering useful data
Water clarity is an important indicator of lake and stream health; it shows the amount of light penetration into the water. For streams, a low clarity reading reflects excess sediment. For lakes, it's excess algae. These conditions can affect plant, insect, and fish communities and impact recreational opportunities. The MPCA uses volunteer-collected data to:
- Detect trends in water clarity over time. Increases or decreases in water clarity may indicate changes in water quality on a lake or stream.
- Formally assess the health of lakes and streams by comparing them to state water quality standards. Lakes and streams that fail to meet water quality standards are categorized as impaired and require restoration to improve their overall health.
Meet our volunteers
Learn more about the folks who help us track the health of Minnesota's lakes and streams in the Reflections yearbook for the 2021 monitoring season. We appreciate all their hard work to help protect Minnesota's waters.