For Cleaner Water
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Area Events & Workshops

  • 29 Apr 2015 11:22 AM | Anonymous

    New Report Shines Light on Water Quality Concerns in Minnesota

    Urban and agricultural runoff impairing the quality of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams


    St. Paul, Minn.-- A new report released today by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) provides additional evidence that agricultural and urban runoff is contributing significantly to the impairment of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams. The new study, which monitored half of the state’s 81 major watersheds, takes an in-depth look at the lakes and streams in major drainage areas. According to the MPCA, it is unlikely that current or new clean water funding can significantly improve the deteriorating conditions of many of the state’s waters – unless the state employs new strategies to prevent the pollution from happening in the first place.


    The study, “Swimmable, Fishable, Fixable?” (, found that poor water quality is concentrated in certain regions of the state, especially in southern Minnesota. MPCA researchers noted that in heavily farmed areas, surrounding lakes and streams had high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. These high levels make it difficult to support aquatic life, and in some cases prohibit people from swimming in lakes and streams. The report’s findings conclude that poor water quality in southern Minnesota waters is caused predominantly by agricultural runoff. Urban areas also suffer from elevated levels of water pollution caused by runoff.


    “We have seen many of these patterns developing over the last 20 years. With the comprehensive watershed information we are gathering, we are much closer to a diagnosis that can point us toward the changes that need to happen,” said MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine. “While the Legacy Funds Minnesota citizens invested are helping us take steps forward, it’s clear that we can’t buy our way to healthy waters.”


    Key Findings in the Report

    The report released today was compiled by the MPCA over the last several years, and was funded by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Constitutional Amendment. The MPCA found that phosphorus and nitrogen, high bacteria levels, and mercury contamination continue to be problems in many of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams. These pollutants, which are typically the product of urban and agricultural land runoff, have left many bodies of water inadequate for human consumption and aquatic life. Key findings from the report include:


    ·         Urban and Agricultural Impact – Areas of Minnesota with larger human and livestock populations are struggling the most with water-quality. According to the MPCA study, runoff from land under intense urban or agricultural uses has left half or less of the lakes in those areas clean enough for healthy aquatic life and enjoyable swimming.

    ·         Bacteria Levels – Higher levels of bacteria were discovered in many Minnesota waters. Generally, higher levels of bacteria indicate feedlot runoff or human waste in a water body, indicating it may be unsafe for swimming and other recreation.


    ·         Mercury-Tainted Fish – Despite Minnesota’s progress in preventing mercury from entering lakes, rivers, and streams from our state’s power utilities and other sources, the MPCA study concluded that mercury remains widely present in fish. The vast majority of lakes and streams examined in the study – 97 percent of 490 stream sections and 95 percent of 1,214 lakes studied – contain fish tainted by mercury.


    ·         High Levels of Nitrogen and Phosphorus – The MPCA study also found that watersheds that are heavily farmed or developed tend to have high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and suspended solids in their waters. Nitrogen and phosphorus can cause algal blooms while suspended solids make the water murky. These pollutants hurt aquatic life and recreational opportunities.


    ·         Problems Vary Regionally – While urban and agricultural runoff were the general source of problems across Minnesota, the types of pollution causing problems in specific bodies of water varied regionally. Typical problems included issues such as low oxygen levels, excess nutrients, excess sediment, disruption of natural water flows, a lack of habitat, and a lack of connectivity between different bodies of water.


    Recommended Strategies to Improve Water Quality

    In addition to identifying stressors and healthy conditions in Minnesota’s lakes and streams, the MPCA and partner agencies have recommended strategies to restore and protect our waters. Those recommendations include: stream buffers, nutrient and manure management, storm water controls, and in-lake treatments. While most strategies are tailored for their specific watersheds, some strategies recommended by the MPCA do call for stronger and more targeted application of state and local laws on feedlots, shoreland, septic systems, storm water controls, and wastewater discharges.


    “We are in this for the long haul – and we are talking 20 or more years,” said Commissioner Stine. “We need continued vigilance to protect our healthy waters and take targeted action to restore those that are impaired. It took decades for our lakes and streams to become polluted, and it will take many more years to restore them.”



    The mission of the MPCA is to protect and improve the environment and enhance human health.

    St. Paul • Brainerd • Detroit Lakes • Duluth • Mankato • Marshall • Rochester • Willmar • Toll-free and TDD 800-657-3864 


  • 15 Apr 2015 4:03 PM | Anonymous

    You can learn all about EarthFest events in Rochester at their website

    Come by the Mayo Civic Center on Sunday, April 26 to visit the ZWP Booth, and maybe even meet Zumbro Zoe!

  • 06 Apr 2015 3:37 PM | Anonymous

    Study: Minn. converted more wetlands than any other state when crop prices spiked

    Business Elizabeth Dunbar ·
    This map by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers represents the amount of new cropland expansion as compared to existing cropland in 2008. Areas in red are hot spots where the amount of cropland more than doubled between 2008 and 2012. 
  • 03 Apr 2015 11:19 AM | Anonymous

    Gov. Mark Dayton stopped in Austin Thursday to hear solutions from farmers and landowners alike on a proposed water quality bill to add more buffer strip land throughout the state.

    More than 200 people gathered at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Thursday afternoon to weigh in on legislation to require 50-foot buffer strips around Minnesota’s water systems.

    Under a bill before legislators, landowners would have to install at least 50 feet of perennial vegetation — also known as a buffer strip — to help filter phosphates, nitrates, sediments and other potential pollutants from water running into the state’s rivers, lakes and streams.

    Gov. Mark Dayton listens to a speaker during Thursday’s forum.
    Gov. Mark Dayton listens to a speaker during Thursday’s forum.

    Dayton, along with various local and state officials, told the audience the proposal is meant to stem increasing water pollution concerns, especially after a recent Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report showed all but one out of 97 streams weren’t suited to drink or to use in water activities.

    “It’s everybody’s problem and it needs to be everybody’s solution,” Dayton said.

    Dayton’s proposal would add about 125,000 acres of buffer-stripped land throughout the state. Though there are several exceptions to the bill — beaches would be exempt from the buffer strip requirement, for example — some landowners and farmers were concerned the legislation would provide a one-size-fits-all solution to a complex problem.

    Mark Novak, a farmer near Wells, Minnesota, said he already had about 33 feet of buffer strip lining his land near the ditches.

    “With 33 feet, very little water from my land is going into the ditch,” he said. “You want me to add another 15 feet?”

    Bruce Peterson, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, defended the state agricultural industry’s track record on water runoff and said many farmers and agricultural companies are improving water quality through better technology and farming practices.

    “I simply believe that one size does not fit all,” he said.

    Yet farmers disagreed over whether buffer strips were necessary. One farmer said buffer strips on his land had helped filter rain water on his property since the 1970s, while another farmer said the government was, in essence, stealing several acres of his land that could be used for crops.

    Mower County Farm Bureau President Marlin Fay called on Dayton and state officials to slow momentum on the bill until more research could be done, but Dayton said he would stand firm on getting water quality solutions like the buffer strip bill passed sooner than later.

    Jim O’Connor of rural Blooming Prairie speaks at a forum for Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed buffer strip plan Thursday at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. Eric Johnson/
    Jim O’Connor of rural Blooming Prairie speaks at a forum for Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed buffer strip plan Thursday at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. Eric Johnson/

    “The fact is, things are not getting better, they’re getting worse and more polluted,” Dayton said.

    After the meeting, Dayton said state officials could look into several measures proposed by the audience, which included more funding for soil and water conservation districts and reduced taxes on buffer strip land.

    Richard King, who owns farm land near Windom Township, said he supported the buffer strip proposal as well as a negative tax for the subsequent acres affected by the bill.

    “If you put a negative tax on the buffer zone, they’re going to go for it more,” he said.

    Dayton stopped in Worthington as well Thursday to discuss the proposal. Lawmakers will debate Dayton’s measure, as well as several other environmental proposals, over the next few weeks.

  • 01 Apr 2015 4:29 PM | Anonymous

    News Release


    Three Minnesota Rivers Moving to Canada

    By Aquatic Press Associates

    In an unprecedented move, three Minnesota Rivers, the Rock River, the Little Sioux River, and the Big Sioux River have begun moving from their banks in southwestern Minnesota to new river beds in Alberta, Canada.

    “We’ve been waiting for 40 years for landowners to show us the respect we deserve and we’ve finally had enough of their dawdling and delay,” said the Rock River on Wednesday. “If  Minnesotans aren’t going to take care of us, then we’re moving to a place that values clean water and cleaning up rivers.”

    “We’ve been waiting for 40 years for landowners to show us the respect we deserve and we’ve finally had enough of their dawdling and delay,” said the Rock River on Wednesday. “If  Minnesotans aren’t going to take care of us, then we’re moving to a place that values clean water and cleaning up rivers.”

    The move happens on the heels of a report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that determined that no lakes and only one stream southwestern Minnesota were swimmable and fishable, due primarily to high levels of manure bacteria, fertilizer pollution, and sediment from livestock and crop farming operations in the intensively agricultural region.

    “How hard would it be to plant a few grass buffers on a river?” said the Big Sioux River. “In my day, landowners took care of the land. Now I’m not so sure.”

    Canadian officials expressed excitement that the three rivers will be moving to the relatively dry prairie region in western Canada. They did point out that rivers will have to go through a month-long quarantine, leave excess fertilizers and bacteria in North Dakota before crossing the border, and henceforth measure their volume in liters.

  • 20 Mar 2015 1:58 PM | Anonymous

    Southeast Minnesota Cover Crop Producer Meeting

    Date: March 25, 2015 Time: Registration – 9:30 a.m., Program – 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

    Where: Zumbrota VFW 25 1st Street East Zumbrota, MN 55992  Phone: 507-732-7123

    Cost: $5.00 (includes morning break, noon meal and handouts)

    Please RSVP to your local SWCD office by March 20th, 2015

    Goodhue SWCD - Coty Hellengren, 651-923-5286, ext.117

    Olmsted SWCD - Skip Langer, 507-280-2850, ext. 110

    Rice SWCD - Travis Hirman, 507-332-7418, ext. 126

    Scott SWCD - Todd Kavitz, 952-492-5457 (direct line)

    Wabasha SWCD - Matt Kruger, 651-565-4673, ext.110


    Reagan Noland, University of Minnesota, Forage and Cover Crop Research Student –

    Presenting current Minnesota studies.

    Jim Paulson, University of Minnesota, Forage Nutritionist – Feeding cover crops to dairy and beef cattle. And the value to sell cover crops.

    Heidi Peterson, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Research Coordinator – Update on current and future cover crop research

    Kevin Kuehner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Watershed Monitoring – What is leaving your land with runoff and how much is it costing you.

    Producer & Industry Panel Discussion

    Andy Hart  (Corn, Soybean, Canning Crops Producer – Elgin, MN) Air- seeding cover crops & strip tillage, do they work, when they might not

    Gene Kuntz & Jim Purfeerst (Rice County Soil Health Group – Rice County, MN) Results on 2014 inter-seeding and the effect on corn yields at harvest

    Daniel Nath (Natural Resource Conservation Service – Rochester, MN) Mississippi River Basin Initiative- Phase Two; Soil Health: Does my ground have a pulse?

    Program Coordinator: Ed McNamara, 37299 171st Avenue Goodhue, MN 55027

    Program Sponsors: Legacy Seeds, Kartes Seeds, Jonas Seeds, Byron Seeds and

    Minnesota Department of Agriculture

    Cell: 651-380-8183, Email:

  • 16 Mar 2015 10:51 AM | Anonymous
    People in Rochester are gearing up for a series of events April 18-26 in the Rochester Area.
  • 10 Mar 2015 4:38 PM | Anonymous

    Our friends at Minnesota Trout Unlimited created a great web page about the new Dayton Buffer Rule. As you probably know, Minnesota has required a 50-foot perennial buffer between crop fields and waterways for over three decades, but a recent survey of Minnesota Buffers by the Environmental Working Group found that only 18 percent of rivers and streams had all the required buffers.

    The TU page gives you an easy way to contact your legislators about the bill and a link to the actual bill. You can also click here to see the Senate Version of the Bill, Senate Bill SF 1537. The link to House Bill on the site doesn't work, though.

    Overall, the bill doesn't seem to include many changes from current law, with the exception that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will step in if local Soil and Water Conservation Districts don't enforce the rule.

    Here's the page. Check it out and weigh in on this important water quality issue.

  • 02 Mar 2015 6:03 PM | Anonymous

    Minnesota Buffer Strip Summit to be Held in Mazeppa

    Buffer strips have been part of Minnesota drainage laws since 1959. Because these rules have not been uniformly enforced, this last January Governor Dayton asked the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to strengthen and take over enforcement of the law to provide consistent enforcement throughout our state.  Changes to the law are being proposed, with penalties from enforcement being looked at to fund the program.  

    As a result, the local soil health group, S.O.M. Generators, is hosting several sessions on Friday, March 13th at the Mazeppa Community Center to spur discussion on the governor’s proposal, as well as discussion on current and future soil conservation practices and how it is affecting the land.

    The afternoon session will begin at 1:00 p.m. with a presentation by local Mazeppa photographer, Brenda Wiech.  Wiech states that her presentation titled, Zumbro Crossings, was born out of a deep conviction to be a caretaker of the land that has and continues to shape my existence in the Zumbro River watershed.  These fine art landscape photographs increase awareness of a vanishing agricultural-supported society that is also faced with increased floods and soil conservation issues. The intensity of light and color generates a mood in the face of adversity and brings attention to landscapes that typically get missed.  It is a timeless juxtaposition addressing a fragile environment where time does not stand still.

    Beginning at 2:00 p.m., there will be presentations on Regenerative Agriculture Management and how these practices can renew the soil. Regeneration has the ability to cure all environmental problems coming from croplands by restoring Natural Tilth. Such soils have almost unlimited infiltration, and the recycling of both active carbon and other nutrients can significantly reduce a farmers production costs.

    At 3:00 p.m. Kevin Strauss, Education Coordinator with the Zumbro Watershed Partnership, will present "Rivers, Farms, and Floods: A Human History of the Zumbro River."  The Zumbro River provided mill power, drinking water, and waste disposal when American settlers arrived in the 1800s. Back then, the Zumbro was a slow, curving, and relatively clean river with few floods and almost no erosion. Learn how things changed and what we can do for a cleaner, safer Zumbro River.

    Individuals are invited to return to the Community Center at 6 p.m. to continue the dialogue.  At 7:00 p.m. an open forum on the new Minnesota Buffer Strip Initiative will begin. The forum will be chaired by hometown State Rep. Steve Drazkowski.  Panel members will consist of state regulatory personnel, as well as several local State Legislators.

    Refreshments will be served in the afternoon and individuals are invited to look at the displays and become part of the conversation.  Following each presentation there will be time for questions and comments.



  • 12 Jan 2015 11:18 AM | Anonymous

    Des Moines Water Works to Sue Counties

    The board of the state's largest water utility has voted unanimously to sue three northern Iowa counties, holding them responsible for the high nitrate levels in rivers the utility uses for source water. Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager Bill Stowe says there have been significant peaks in nitrate levels throughout the last three years.

    Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of Des Moines Water Works, discusses why the state's largest water utility is suing counties in Iowa.
    Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of Des Moines Water Works, discusses why the state's largest water utility is suing counties in Iowa.
    Credit Photo by John Pemble

    “Unfortunately in a context where there’s a lot of discussion about volunteerism and conservation practices that will take flight voluntarily by farmers learning more about it,” Stowe says. “We’re still seeing the public water supply in central Iowa directly risked by high nitrate concentrations.”

    The five-member board says it will file a notice of intent to sue Calhoun, Buena Vista and Sac counties, which oversee 10 drainage districts that were designed to move water out of farm fields downstream. The suit will allege the drainage districts move contaminants like nitrates the Water Works must remove when levels exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits.

    “There is no evidence that the regulatory scheme ultimately sought by Des Moines Water Works will improve water quality,” says Tom Oswald, the president of the Iowa Soybean Association.

    A notice of intent Friday notifies the county supervisors and state officials that a lawsuit will be filed in 60 days.


Contact Us:

Mailing Address: Zumbro Watershed Partnership, Inc.
12 Elton Hills Drive NW
Rochester, MN 55901

ZWP Executive Director Contact Information 
Phone Number: 507-226-6787

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