MPCA studies show water quality below standards in Lac qui Parle Watershed

Contact: Forrest Peterson, 320-979-1776

Two new draft reports released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) find the majority of monitored stream sections and lakes in the Lac qui Parle River Watershed in western Minnesota are not meeting water quality standards designed to protect recreation and fish and aquatic bugs.

The agency found excess levels of bacteria in eight stream sections it studied in the watershed; one section also had excess sediment. Excess sediment comes from eroding stream banks and runoff from tilled fields, while inadequate septic systems and livestock are the source of bacteria in the Lac qui Parle River and its tributaries. 

On the positive side, Del Clark Lake near Canby is meeting water quality standards for swimming and other recreation, and Hendricks Lake, while still impaired, is showing improved water clarity.

The watershed straddles the Minnesota-South Dakota border; about two-thirds lies in portions of Lac qui Parle, Yellow Medicine, and Lincoln counties. About two-thirds of the watershed is used for row crop farming, and about 20 percent is pasture and grasslands. A previous study of the watershed in 2013 showed 19 water quality impairments from sediment, bacteria, and low dissolved oxygen in sections of the Lac qui Parle and Yellow Bank rivers.

The MPCA, landowners, and local conservation agencies are using or planning several strategies to improve water quality in the watershed, including farm nutrient management practices, conservation tillage, cover crops, grassed waterways, buffers, and septic system upgrades. With 30 percent of the watershed in South Dakota, it will be necessary to work with partners there to develop protection and restoration approaches for the entire watershed.

The first report, a total maximum daily load (TMDL) report, establishes the amount of individual pollutants that a water body can accept and still meet water quality standards, and the amount of reductions needed in current levels of pollution. The second report, a watershed restoration and protection strategies (WRAPS) report, recommends strategies for restoring polluted waters and protecting healthy ones.

The reports are part of the MPCA’s approach to gauging the health of Minnesota’s 80 major watersheds, each of which will have an approved comprehensive watershed management plan by 2025. After intensive water monitoring, the agency and partners evaluate biological conditions in lakes and streams. The MPCA places waters that fail to meet standards on the Impaired Waters List, and develops information and strategies to restore impaired waters and protect healthy ones.

The public is invited to review and comment on the draft reports, which are available on the MPCA’s Lac qui Parle River Watershed webpage. Submit comments to or request information from Katherine Pekarek-Scott (320-444-7186), MPCA, 504 Fairgrounds Rd., Ste. 200, Marshall, MN, 56258 by 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 7, 2021.