The MPCA recently completed Minnesota's first comprehensive study of water quality and fish and insect communities in the Red River of the North from its headwaters near Breckenridge to the Canadian border. The study led to these primary conclusions:
- In places there is too much sediment to meet the standards designed to protect fish and other aquatic life. It makes it harder for many fish to find food, detect predators and reproduce in cloudy water. Some stretches are impaired for swimming due to high bacteria levels. Phosphorous levels are impacting downstream waters and nitrogen levels are increasing. Generally speaking, fish and aquatic insect communities are doing reasonably well, but decline as you go downstream.
- Solutions include: Implementing additional practices and projects that help reduce peak flows during spring runoff and heavy rains, and increase base flows during dry periods. Landowners, watershed districts and others having been working toward these goals but more is needed to keep our farmlands highly productive while at the same time improving and protecting water quality.
Study contact: Cathy Rofshus, 507-206-2608, firstname.lastname@example.org
Images of the Red River and its tributaries, the agriculture near the river, the fish, ditches, and MPCA staff scientists doing monitoring work.
The research also looked at pathways, trends and potential ways to reduce nitrogen pollution in our rivers and streams.
The Watershed Pollutant Load Monitoring Network is a long-term program designed to measure and compare pollutant load information from Minnesota’s rivers and streams and track water quality trends.
- A River Runs North: Managing an International River, second edition, by Jay A. Leitch and Gene Krenz, May 2013, for the Red River Basin Commission.
- Nutrient Reduction Strategy - Two-page summary
- Nitrogen in Minnesota Surface Waters
- Watershed Pollutant Load Monitoring Network
- Discovery Farms Minnesota
- Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture Red River Valley Water Management
Watersheds that feed the Red River of the North
These watersheds comprise all the land that drains water towards the river:
- Roseau River
- Two Rivers
- Lower Red / Tamarac
- Snake River
- Thief River
- Grand Marais Creek
- Red Lake River
- Upper & Lower Red Lakes
- Clearwater River
- Sand Hill River
- Marsh River
- Wild Rice River
- Buffalo River
- Upper Red River
- Otter Tail River
- Bois de Sioux River
- Mustinka River