MPCA beginning water quality monitoring field work throughout Minnesota

Contact: Steve Mikkelson, 218-316-3887

Brainerd, Minn. ― Monitoring crews from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) are beginning the ninth year of a statewide effort to assess the condition of rivers, streams and lakes in Minnesota. This work is being funded by the Clean Water Fund from the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2008.

The most intensive monitoring activities will focus on five of Minnesota’s 80 major watersheds. Each watershed is comprised of a network of interconnected streams, lakes, ditches and wetlands. The intent of this monitoring effort is to develop a complete picture of conditions of the various water bodies within each watershed.

The biological monitoring will be performed by two monitoring units, a north team based in Brainerd, and a south team based in St. Paul. This summer, the north team will work in Mississippi River-Brainerd, Mississippi River-Sartell, and the Ottertail River Watersheds. The south team will work in the Kettle and Upper St. Croix River Watersheds.

The south team will also monitor the Mississippi River mainstem in a cooperative study with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The MPCA will focus their work on the reach from St. Anthony Falls to Wabasha. The north team will monitor the Rainy River mainstem, from Rainy Lake to Lake of the Woods. This monitoring is designed to measure and evaluate the condition of rivers and streams by studying the biology including fish, aquatic invertebrates, as well as habitat, flow and water chemistry. Examples of aquatic invertebrates include insect larvae, crayfish, snails, small clams, worms and leeches. Stream water chemistry is needed to provide information about the quality of the water in which these fish and invertebrates live and the recreational suitability of the water.

To see biological monitoring teams in action, you can watch short videos on fish sampling and invertebrate sampling on the MPCA’s biological monitoring webpage.

In addition to the biological monitoring on rivers and streams, other MPCA crews will conduct monitoring to determine the quality of lakes and wetlands and determine watershed pollutant loads. The MPCA Water Quality Monitoring Unit will collect water chemistry data on lakes and streams in each of the five watersheds and two large rivers scheduled to be sampled in 2015.

The MPCA is committed to monitoring all lakes greater than 500 acres in size, and as many lakes over 100 acres as possible. The lake monitoring teams will focus on water clarity, nutrient concentrations and other water chemistry parameters to assess lakes for their ability to support recreational uses. The MPCA will also partner with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to gather fish and plant data to help determine the health of lake aquatic communities.

Other MPCA monitoring staff, working with the DNR and local water resource managers, will continue to track flow, pollutant loads, and water quality trends on all the state’s largest rivers, on a major of tributary rivers, and at 125 additional river and stream stations.

Wetland monitoring crews will be sampling plants in150 randomly picked wetlands statewide to determine their quality.  They will be doing this work in conjunction with a national survey of wetlands across the United States. This will be the second survey of this type which was last done in 2011.

The MPCA also relies on a large contingent of volunteers and local partners to collect water quality data on lakes and streams. Several groups have received funds through Surface Water Assessment Grants to collect water quality data in 2016 in these watersheds.

The MPCA has standards for what the biology and water chemistry should look like at a given sampling location. If samples do not meet those expectations, the sampling location could be considered impaired, and restoration activities will be explored. For lakes and stream that are meeting standards, protection strategies may be warranted.

For more information about these monitoring program activities, visit the MPCA’s water quality condition monitoring webpage.