Citizen Monitoring Program: Annual summary

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizen Monitoring Programs (CMP) provide the opportunity for anyone in Minnesota with an interest in lakes and streams to participate in a simple, yet meaningful citizen science monitoring program.

CMP volunteers take weekly measurements of water clarity (transparency) during the summer using equipment provided by the MPCA. These collaborative programs represent one of the best methods for obtaining large-scale, long-term water quality data in Minnesota. For many lakes and streams, CMP data are the only water quality information available, making this work by CMP volunteers invaluable. This report summarizes the most recent monitoring season, both of CMP data collected and of program participation.

Program participation

Both the lake and stream programs have experienced declines in participation since 2008. The economic recession may have been one factor influencing the decline, with people generally having less free time to volunteer in the community. We continue to strive for increased participation by reaching out to local governments and partner organizations, and by using new tools for recruitment such as social media.

CMP participation 1998-2016

 

Total number of volunteers and sites for 2016

Counts of volunteers and sites for 2016

The above chart shows the total number of volunteers and sites on both lakes and streams during the 2016 monitoring season (number of whole lakes monitored in parentheses).

Number of volunteers in each watershed

These maps display the number of volunteers for lakes and streams in each major watershed in Minnesota. In general, there is a greater number of lake volunteers clustered in the lakes-rich northern region of the state; stream volunteers are more numerous in the southern region of the state.

Double-click on a map to zoom in and find your watershed.

Lake volunteers

Counts of lake monitoring volunteers by watershed

Stream volunteers

Counts of stream monitoring volunteers by watershed,

Secchi transparency data summaries

Water transparency is the core measurement taken by volunteers in both the Citizen Lake and Citizen Stream Monitoring Programs. Transparency (clarity) is a quick and easy measurement that tells us a lot about a lake or stream’s water quality. First, it indicates the amount of light penetration into a lake or stream, which is important for plant growth. Second, Secchi transparency provides an indirect measure of the amount of suspended material in the water. Suspended materials in lakes most often consist of predominantly algae, while sediments are more common in streams.

Transparency readings for lakes and streams are grouped into ranges, from poor to excellent:

Transparency categories

Sites in each Secchi transparency category

These categories serve as benchmarks for comparing readings across lakes and streams in Minnesota. The largest percentage of sites monitored last year fall into the “Very good” category. A higher percentage of lakes (33%) fall into the “Excellent” category than streams (25%), whereas there are more streams (12%) than lakes (6%) in the “Fair” category.

Percent of monitored sites in each Secchi transparency category

Average summer transparency: Streams

This map shows the distribution of average summer transparency across Minnesota for stream sites monitored during the most recent monitoring season.

Double-click on the map to zoom in and find a site; click on a site to view its summary data

Average summer transparency: Lakes

This map shows the distribution of average summer transparency across Minnesota lakes monitored during the most recent monitoring season.

Double-click on the map to zoom in and find a site; click on a site to view its summary data

Secchi transparency trends logoTransparency trends over time

One of the primary uses for Secchi disk or Secchi tube transparency data is to determine water quality trends over time. Learn more on the transparency trends page.

Secchi transparency trends in Minnesota lakes (2016)  takes a closer look at data for monitored lakes exhibiting significant trends and provides insights into factors that affect the transparency and quality of Minnesota’s lakes.

More information

For more information on volunteer water monitoring, go to the main citizen water monitoring page.