Improving water quality in lakes

In addition to the MPCA’s ongoing water quality monitoring, projects are underway in 53 of Minnesota’s 81 watersheds to improve lake water quality. State and local government programs, along with conservation practices and restoration projects, are all factors in the improvements. For example:

Crow Wing County ordinance

Leaders in Crow Wing County overhauled the county’s land use ordinance in 2011 to include site-specific standards for managing stormwater runoff. People building new lakeshore cabins or making changes to existing structures must submit a stormwater plan to manage a one-inch rainfall, if impervious surfaces, such as concrete and asphalt, cover more than 15% of their lot. If they have 20% or more (up to a maximum of 25%) “hardscaping,” applicants must create buffers along the water line. The ordinance also increases the minimum lot size and setbacks for septic systems.

Tall bank of highly eroded lakeshore with exposed tree roots

Before: eroded shoreline

Tall bank on lakeshore with terraces of bright green grass

After: shoreline restoration begun

Rescuing Powderhorn Lake

Powderhorn Lake in Minneapolis once had so many contamination issues that it was thought to be unfixable. But residents, businesses, government, and organizations are using a combination of tactics — including rain gardens, shoreline revegetation, and grit chambers — to capture stormwater runoff and improve the health of Powderhorn Lake. It is now an example of the effectiveness of water quality protection measures.

bioreactor-diamond-lake-subwatershed

Bioreactor treatment for ag runoff

In 2012 and 2013, the Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District, which covers parts of Stearns and Kandiyohi counties, worked with landowners in the Diamond Lake subwatershed to install a 2,000-square-foot, wood chip-filled bioreactor trench. Water running off the owners' farm field is diverted into the bioreactor and saturates the wood chips, causing a condition that expels nitrates from the water. Water coming out of the bioreactor and moving into nearby surface water and groundwater will carry fewer harmful nutrients with it.

Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture's voluntary certification program is designed to accelerate adoption of on-farm conservation practices that protect Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. Producers who implement and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn assured that their operation meets the state’s water quality goals and standards for a period of 10 years.