MPCA begins 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 eighth year of a 10-year 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 majority of the monitoring activities will focus on 11 of Minnesota’s 81 major watersheds. Each watershed is comprised of a network of interconnected streams, lakes and wetlands.

This summer, monitoring teams will work in the Vermilion River, Cloquet River, Mississippi River-Grand Rapids, Roseau River, Lac Qui Parle River and Minnesota River Headwaters watersheds, and five small watersheds bordering the Mississippi River and Iowa in southeast Minnesota. The monitoring units will also work with Canadian researchers to conduct a survey of the Red River of the North mainstem, from its source at the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail Rivers in western Minnesota to its confluence with Lake Winnipeg in Canada.

The monitoring is designed to measure and evaluate the condition of rivers and streams by studying the biology including fish, aquatic invertebrates and plant life 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 also monitored by MPCA and local partners to provide information about the quality of the water in which these fish and invertebrates live and the recreational suitability of the water.

Lake monitoring crews will sample the larger lakes in the same watersheds. The MPCA and local partners are 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.

In addition to the watershed work, the monitoring crews will conduct a biological and habitat survey of 150 randomly-selected rivers and streams across Minnesota. This survey is part of a national survey of rivers and streams. The data collected from Minnesota will contribute to the national effort and at the same time provide critical information to help track long term changes in the condition of rivers and streams within Minnesota.

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

Other MPCA monitoring teams, working with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and local water resource managers, will continue to track flow, pollutant loads and water quality trends on all the state’s largest rivers, and on major tributary rivers at the outlets of most major watersheds in Minnesota.

Wetland monitoring crews will sample approximately 20 wetlands in support of watershed management across Minnesota.

The MPCA 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 2015 in these watersheds.

There are certain expectations for what the biology and water chemistry should look like at a given sampling location. If actual samples do not meet those expectations, the sampling location could be considered impaired. If that happens, the MPCA would look more closely at what could be causing impairments and find ways to correct the problems.

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