Help monitor water quality on your favorite Minnesota lake or stream

Lowell Deede was on a mission to walk all of the roads in Becker County. While walking past the Buffalo River at a bridge crossing in April of 2015, the river looked beautiful. About a month later, he walked by the same bridge crossing and the river had turned to a muddy soup. This got him wondering – how did this happen? Lowell thought he might be able to figure out what was going on in the Buffalo River by monitoring it. After enrolling in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) Citizen Stream Monitoring Program, Lowell began using a “Secchi tube” to measure water clarity at stream locations across the watershed.

One thing that surprised Lowell was how large rainfalls significantly influenced his water clarity readings at some locations, but had less of an impact at other locations. To Lowell, his monitoring suggested that “…Watersheds can be overwhelmed by rain events, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they decline in water clarity. Some landscapes cannot handle this kind of event, while others can. What causes these differences, and what can be done to moderate the impacts? Buffers come into place, grass waterways. This leads to more questions, and to more sampling needs.”

More than 1,300 Minnesotans currently participate in the MPCA’s Citizen Lake and Stream Monitoring Programs, but to reach all water bodies across Minnesota, more volunteers like Lowell are needed. As part of the program, volunteers are asked to perform a short and simple water clarity test at their favorite lake or stream, once per week throughout the summer. Equipment and training are provided by the MPCA and no prior experience is necessary. For some lakes and streams, volunteer-collected data is the only data available, making citizen involvement critical to ensuring the lasting health of Minnesota’s waters.

A Secchi tube (left) is used to measure water clarity in streams, and a Secchi disk is used in lakes (right)

Find out if your favorite lake or stream needs monitoring by using the MPCA’s interactive map. To become a volunteer or learn more about the program, visit the Citizens water monitoring enrollment webpage, or call 651-296-6300 (Twin Cities) or 800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota).