Note to editors: This is the fourth of six news releases featuring clean water projects funded by the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment. The amendment was approved by voters five years ago this month. View past news releases at www.pca.state.mn.us.
Local partners brave the elements to detect pollutants in rivers
Rochester, Minn. -- When it rains in southeastern Minnesota, select watershed staff are packing their sample bottles along with their umbrellas. They’re working to detect the level of pollutants being flushed into rivers with rain water or snow melt.
When snow melts or rain falls, the water picks up pollutants as it drains across land to a stream. Measuring that flush of pollutants can be tricky because some stream water levels rise and fall so quickly – in a matter of hours. It’s also important work, because the bulk of pollutants in a season can come from a single major storm.
Staff are checking several sites on the Cannon, Zumbro and Root rivers – all tributaries to the Mississippi – for water temperature, clarity and other conditions. Staff will also take water samples for lab analysis to determine levels of nutrients and sediment. These are the two most common pollutants in Minnesota waters, with nutrients fueling algal blooms and sediment clouding the water.
With funding from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), via the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, this important monitoring work is being done by the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, Fillmore Soil and Water Conservation District and Zumbro Watershed Partnership.
While these local partners regularly monitor the health of rivers, this water monitoring is special because it captures the level of pollutants in runoff. Water picks up soil, fertilizer and other pollutants as it runs off the land to a stream, lake or wetland.
“Pollutant loads are typically highest during and after high precipitation events because many pollutant concentrations are often highest during periods of elevated stream flow. Concentrations can also vary between events as the source of runoff and contributing pollutant sources differ with rainfall intensity, areas of bare soil, and other factors,” said Pat Baskfield, hydrologist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) groundwater and load monitoring unit.
“Capturing data from all major events during first flush and the ensuing high flow period is essential to determining the health of rivers across Minnesota. Each bit of data helps to fill in a picture of water quality,” he said.
To accurately determine a pollutant load, the local partners will also check the rivers during typical flow conditions – when no rain or snowmelt occurs – to establish a baseline of pollutant levels. These checks will provide a comparison point to determine the amount of pollutants flushed in during high water periods.
The data from southeast Minnesota will flow into a statewide water monitoring network, along with four other groups in southern Minnesota. Earlier this year, the MPCA awarded more than $900,000 in grants to these local partners to do this monitoring.
These points of data will provide long-term information to help fill in the picture of water quality across the state. This effort is part of agency-led Watershed Pollutant Load Monitoring Network, which collects data to provide information about the health of Minnesota watersheds – our rivers and what feeds into them. The information helps identify where excessive pollutants are entering river systems, from both direct and runoff sources.
Because this network is statewide and long-term, it can help identify trends over time and compare one part of the state to another. It is also useful to evaluate the effectiveness of remedial activities and to identify waters that need protection.
For more information visit http://www.pca.state.mn.us/pyrieeb.
When it rains in southeastern Minnesota, select watershed staff in southeast Minnesota are packing their sample bottles along with their umbrellas. They’re working to detect the level of pollutants being flushed into rivers with rain water or snow melt.
The project, one of many funded by the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment, will give water professionals a better idea of how the Cannon, Zumbro, and Root Rivers are being affected by runoff. Over time, the information will help to identify where pollutants are entering river systems and give clues about how to target cleanup efforts.
More information is available at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website.
The mission of the MPCA is to protect and improve the environment and enhance human health.
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