Volunteer Monitoring Program: Annual summary

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Volunteer Monitoring Program provide the opportunity for anyone in Minnesota to participate in a simple, meaningful volunteer science water monitoring program. Through its collaborative approach, the program allows dedicated volunteer scientists and the MPCA to track the long-term health of Minnesota lakes and streams via regular summer water clarity monitoring. For many lakes and streams, volunteer monitoring program data is the only regularly collected water quality information available, making this work invaluable. This report summarizes program participation and volunteer monitoring program data collected during the most recent monitoring season.

Program participation

A total of 1,367 volunteers collected data during the most recent monitoring season. The number of lake volunteers has decreased slightly over the past few years, with the number of stream monitoring volunteers remaining fairly stable since 2011. We continue to strive for increased participation by trying new strategies to reach out to different and younger audiences.

Number of stream and lake program volunteers

Graph showing citizen monitoring participation from 1998 to 2019.

Total number of volunteers and sites during the most recent monitoring season

Graph showing number of CMP volunteers and sites in 2019

 

Number of volunteers in each watershed

These maps display the number of volunteers for lakes and streams in each of the 80 major watersheds 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.

Click on a map to see the statewide coverage for lakes and streams by watershed.

Lake volunteers

Counts of lake monitoring volunteers by watershed

Stream volunteers

Counts of stream monitoring volunteers by watershed,

 

Secchi water clarity data summaries

Water clarity is the core measurement taken by volunteers in both the Lake and Stream Monitoring Programs. Water 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 water clarity 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.

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

Transparency categories

 

Lakes and stream sites in each Secchi water clarity category

These categories serve as benchmarks for comparing readings across lakes and streams in Minnesota. For the most recent monitoring season, more lakes were in the “Excellent” category than in previous years. The largest percentage of stream sites were in the “Very good” category, as in previous years. A higher percentage of lakes fall into the “Excellent” category than streams, while more streams were in the “Fair” and “Poor” categories.

Chart: Percentage of lake and stream sites in each Secchi category in 2019

 

Average summer water clarity: Streams

This map shows the distribution of average summer water clarity 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 water clarity: Lakes

This map shows the distribution of average summer water clarity 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

Water clarity trends over time

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

More information

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