MPCA celebrates citizen work to preserve Minnesota lakes

Contact: Mary Connor, 651-757-2629

St. Paul, Minn. —  Minnesotans feel strongly about their iconic lakes and are uniquely active in protecting them. This Earth Day, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency honors the work of citizens around the state who are responding to water quality threats to their beloved lakes. Their work, in some cases, has been going on for decades, and the MPCA recognizes their critical role in defending lakes from a variety of contaminants. A few examples:

  • Lake Volney — A local association has worked for decades to improve Lake Volney in Le Sueur County, near Le Center. They’ve taken on wetland restoration, buffer strips, stream bank stabilization, raingardens, annual cleanups and working with farmers to adopt beneficial practices. The lake has gone from algae covered in the 1990s to good water clarity in 2013.
  • Lake Shaokatan — Located near Ivanhoe in Lincoln County, Lake Shaokatan is in a watershed dominated by agriculture and has suffered from excess runoff of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. It has extensive algae blooms in the summer — including blue-green algae which is toxic to humans and pets — and has seen periodic fish kills. A partnership of state and federal agencies, local governments, and local groups began by addressing malfunctioning septic systems near the shore, runoff from animal feedlots and wetlands restoration. Ongoing efforts continue to bring improvements in the lake’s water quality.
  • Lake Winona — A group scientists, residents and local officials calling themselves Healthy Lake Winona has formed recently in order to look at ways to improve water quality in Lake Winona. The lake is burdened with excess phosphorus, which can cause algae growth, reduce water clarity and kill fish. One source of the phosphorus is stormwater runoff that carries fertilizers, leaves, and grass clippings. The group hopes to promote residential rain gardens that can reduce stormwater and to educate city residents on keeping debris out of storm drains.

The Minnesota Waters website has a list of and links to the state’s active network of lake associations and rivers organizations, which are critical to protecting water quality in the state. The sheer number of lake and river organizations demonstrates how important our water resources are to Minnesotans. 

Another way state residents demonstrate their affection for water is by participating in the MPCA's Citizens Monitoring Program. More than 1,300 Minnesota citizens perform water clarity tests at a designated lake or stream each week throughout the summer. For some lakes and streams, volunteer-collected data is the only data available, making citizen involvement crucial to ensuring the lasting health of Minnesota’s waters.