For Cleaner Water
       & Fewer Floods  

Area Events & Workshops

  • 21 May 2014 12:20 PM | Anonymous

    Do you shop at

    Would you like to make donations to ZWP for every purchase you make on the site?

    Follow the directions below to sign up for "AmazonSmile". It's free and easy.

    A. Go to:           


    B.      Choose “Zumbro Watershed Partnership” as you charity

    C.      Visit to shop on Amazon. That way your purchases will be credited and Amazon will send 0.5% of your purchase amount to ZWP. This donation comes from Amazon and adds nothing to your purchase costs.

  • 08 May 2014 11:49 PM | Anonymous

    Who's protecting Minnesota's rural rivers?

    Detailed maps show that many farms lack protective “buffer strips” to keep runoff out of streams and rivers.

    Four-fifths of the cropland that butts up against the streams and rivers of southern Minnesota is missing at least some of the legally required natural borders that are the first step in safeguarding waters that flow to the Mississippi River, Lake Pepin and eventually the Gulf of Mexico, according to the first detailed mapping of the region’s rivers.

    Overall, the southern third of the state earns a “C” because most of the waterways have modest protections, according to the Environmental Working Group a national watchdog group that conducts scientific research to promote environmental action.

    But a set of precise aerial maps compiled by the group also reveal widespread violations and large disparities from one watershed to another.

    Those borders of wild grasses, trees or shrubs undefined 50-foot buffer strips required by state law undefined are nature’s way of filtering agricultural pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus, while also providing critical refuge for birds, bees, turtles, frogs and other wildlife. They are considered the first step in conservation in an area of the state where row crops take up more than half the landscape.

    Minnesota’s rule has been in place for years and is one of the few such laws in the country. The aerial photo maps created by EWG specifically for Minnesota are the first comprehensive look at how well it’s being implemented at a time when the state and the nation are becoming increasingly concerned about agriculture’s impact on water.

    The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that agricultural runoff degrades more than 125,000 miles of rivers and streams across the country. Minnesota is spending millions in state tax dollars in a watershed-by-watershed effort to make major reductions in agricultural pollution by 2025.

    But enforcement of the state’s buffer rule has long been a sore point with environmental groups. They argue that the state and county governments, which are charged with implementing it, rarely use one of the few but very effective regulatory tools they have to protect vulnerable streams and rivers.

    “Laws do work,” said Kris Sigford, a water quality specialist with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, a nonprofit environmental law firm. The fact that most of the rivers are partly protected is evidence of that, she said, adding, “But they are not self-implementing.”

    ‘Useful’ information

    The state’s top environmental officials, who reviewed the findings, said EWG’s methodology and results are accurate and show that many places need attention. In particular, they said, EWG found that nearly half of the missing ­buffers are along the small streams that form the headwaters of Minnesota’s great rivers.

    “It’s very useful,” said John Linc Stine, Commissioner of the Pollution Control Agency. “We are going to use this to inform local governments.”

    Local officials said that many farmers plant healthy buffers voluntarily, while others are more reluctant. Planting buffer strips can mean a difficult choice to take productive land out of production, especially in recent years as corn and soybean prices have spiked, said Tom Muller, a farmer who serves on the ­Cottonwood County soil and water board.

    County officials say attention to the issue is on the rise, but acknowledge that many county boards are simply unaware of the rule or are reluctant to create controversy in small agricultural communities. But they also say the report illustrates the scope of problems on the landscape that have been frustrating them for years.

    “I live a half mile from Watonwan River,” said David Bucklin, a technician for the Cottonwood County Soil and Water Conservation District in southwest Minnesota. Decades ago a 3-mile segment was straightened, and now giant farm equipment plows right up to its banks. “It looks more like a ditch,” he said.

    A simple barrier

    Buffers, which have been around as long as farming itself, are part of Minnesota’s Shoreland Protection Act, the law that lays out protections for its thousands of lakes and thousands of miles of rivers and streams. Environmentalists say the rules applying to farmers are the least explicit and most lenient; some lakes require up to 350 feet of protective natural vegetation, while farm buffer strips are only 50 feet.

    Still, buffer strips are as functional as they are simple. A stand of prairie grasses, shrubs or trees creates a barrier that stops soil from running off fields into the streams, where it clouds the water, killing fish and some plant life. Much of that chemical-laden sediment then flows into the Minnesota River and eventually dumps into Lake Pepin. But more important, excess phosphorus finds its way into the water when it attaches to the soil. And phosphorus, a fertilizer that causes excess plant growth and toxic algal blooms, is one of the key pollutants in the Mississippi River that has created a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico the size of ­Connecticut.

    “It’s very effective for phosphorus,” said Matt Helmers, a soil scientist who studies buffer strips at Iowa State ­University.

    Craig Cox, a vice president at EWG, said the buffer analysis was a natural because new mapping and photography technology makes it possible, and because Minnesota is the only state in the Midwest to have such a law.

    “In the heart of the Corn Belt, I don’t know of any other state that has comparable protection,” he said. But such laws and their enforcement are critical “to strike a balance between what taxpayers pay for and what should be the basic responsibilities that go with the rights of land ownership,” he said.

    ‘I didn’t even know’

    Drawing on federal land-use data as well as high resolution aerial photographs from 2012 and 2013, EWG found that only 18 percent of the waterways adjacent to cropland earned an “A,” meaning that 100 percent of the acres within 50 feet of the water were covered by natural vegetation. About a third had less than 70 percent. But there were major differences among counties, watersheds and even the same stream.

    “It’s really a checkerboard, and kind of inexplicable,” Cox said.

    Some county environmental officials disputed EWG’s grading system. Julie Conrad, land use planner for Blue Earth County, where three major rivers merge into the Minnesota River, said EWG judged their water protection efforts purely on agricultural land, and not on land with other owners or uses. The county’s mapping shows that when considered as a whole, their waterways are quite well protected, she said.

    Cox said the study focused on farms “because that’s where the pollution comes from.”

    One problem, county officials said, is that in many places, farmers, county and zoning officials don’t even know the law exists.

    “I didn’t know about that ordinance, even though I sit on the soil and water board,” said Muller, who helps run a family farm of about 2,600 acres of corn and soybeans in Cottonwood County. He rents some cropland that borders a “nice creek” that is planted with natural grasses as part of a federal conservation program.

    But there is resistance as well, Muller added. “It’s kind of a nuisance thing,” he said. “A lot of farmers, especially if they are renters, they say, ‘Let’s get as much out of this [land] as we can.’ ”

    In addition, enforcement is a difficult and politically fraught problem, said several county environmental officials. It requires the backing and funding of a county board, which usually includes farmers or retired farmers for members.

    “If this is ever going to be taken on on a larger basis, it has to come down from the state,” said Bucklin.

    State environmental officials say that putting their weight behind the law requires a delicate balancing act.

    “We’ve been careful not to push the counties over the edge of the cliff in their work,” said Rob Collett, water resource manager for the Department of Natural Resources’s southern region. “But I do think we could do a better job on seeking enforcement and follow-up.”

    When counties do take action, they can be very effective. Conrad said that in 2012, the county launched a new effort to increase protections “because our rivers are highly valued.” They identified 336 landowners who need to install or improve their buffers, and so far 227 have started putting that land into conservation ­programs.

    But now the hard part starts, she said undefined persuading landowners who are reluctant. “The backing of the county board is essential,” she said. “And the county attorney’s office has to be willing to prosecute it, too.”

    Josephine Marcotty • 612-673-7394

  • 07 May 2014 4:17 PM | Anonymous

    Thursday, May 8, 6:30 p.m.,


    by Bob Watson and Larry Stone

     Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Science Center, 2900 19th Street NW, Rochester

    Watson and Stone give a 4-step plan to address the river pollution and erosion we're seeing in rural areas while at the same time reducing flooding risks and improving the farm economy. See how you can be part of the solution to river pollution in this innovative presentation.

    For more information, contact Zumbro Watershed Partnership Education Coordinator Kevin Strauss at 507-993-3411, or ""

  • 28 Apr 2014 12:13 PM | Anonymous
    The Zumbro Watershed Partnership has CANCELLED it's 2014 Rain Barrel Sale.

    While earlier advertising reported that we had planned to hold a rain barrel sale on Saturday, May 3 from 9am-3pm, we have cancelled the sale because we couldn't find a vendor to supply the barrels.

    While we hope to hold sales in the future, that depends on our ability to find a company who can bring barrels to Rochester.

    If you have any questions, please contact ZWP Education Coordinator Kevin Strauss at 507-993-3411 or at ""
  • 17 Apr 2014 10:52 AM | Anonymous
    Last Thursday, our "Water Ways" Speaker Series Presenter was Arlys Freeman, President of Midwest Floating Island. She showed us how her company's artificial floating islands could clean fertilizers out of ponds, provide wildlife habitat, an...d protect eroding shorelines.

    While the cost for these islands varies, Freeman estimated about $45 per square foot for construction and installation.

    You can see some of their islands in action at the Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Science Center, Quarry Hill Nature Center, and Silver Lake, all in Rochester, MN.

    You can learn more about their projects at:

    You can see a video about these islands here:
  • 01 Apr 2014 2:31 PM | Anonymous

    Healthy Soils, Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities (H3) Festival

    Saturday, April 12, 2014

    8:00 am-4:00 pm

    Mazeppa Community Center, Mazeppa, MN


    Want to learn more about the history and animals of the Zumbro River? Ever wonder why the region's ponds and lakes fill with sediment? Want to learn about eagles, otters, and other wildlife that live in our area? Do you wonder what farmers and homeowners can do to protect our soil and keep our rivers clean?

    Then you'll want to bring your family to the First Annual "Healthy Soils, Healthy Waters, Healthy Communities Festival" on Saturday, April 12 from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. at the Mazeppa Community Center in Mazeppa, MN, right on the banks of the North Fork of the Zumbro River.

    At the Mazeppa Community Center, children can play games and do activities to learn about river animals and history. You can get your picture taken with "Zumbro Zoe" our six-foot-tall Zumbro River Otter mascot, learn about the history of Mazeppa and the Zumbro River, and discover simple things you can do to work for "Cleaner Water and Fewer Floods" on the Zumbro River. 

    Hear speakers talk about the history, science, and wildlife of the Zumbro River from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

    Free Bus Tours:
    If you want to get outside, join us for a two-hour Zumbro River History and Conservation Bus Tour with the first bus leaving at 8:30 a.m. and the last bus leaving at 1:30 p.m. Tours will leave on the hour. You'll have a chance to see the results of flooding and erosion problems on the Zumbro River, and see what local farmers are doing to protect their soil and keep the Zumbro clean.

    At this family and child activity event, you'll learn to see soil in a whole new way, through hands-on activities and presentations about the Zumbro River, healthy soil farming practices, river-friendly lawn care, area wildlife, and more.

    Participating Organizations Include:

    SOM Generators Farm Mentor Group

    Zumbro Watershed Partnership 

    Renewing the Countryside

    Natural Resource Conservation Service

    Wabasha County Soil and Water Conservation Service

    Minnesota Department of Agriculture

    Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

    Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Project WET)

    Lake Zumbro Forever


    For more information, contact ZWP Education Coordinator Kevin Strauss at 507-993-3411 or


  • 13 Mar 2014 2:19 PM | Anonymous

    For those who forgot to purchase their Rod Schara Breakfast tickets by March 12, you now have until March 16!


    The Zumbro Watershed Breakfast with Ron Schara 

    Saturday, March 22, 2014
    8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.
    Mayo Civic Center, Taylor Arena, Rochester, Minnesota
    Almost everyone in Minnesota knows of Award-Winning Outdoor Journalist and Television Producer Ron Schara. Ron will talk about his role on the Minnesota DNR Outdoor Advisory Committee and what we can all do to work for "Cleaner Water and Fewer Floods" in Southeast Minnesota. 
    Catering by the Canadian Honker.  The cost will be $12.00 per person. 
    Menu:  Scrambled eggs....Sausage patties....American fries....Fresh fruit....Assorted
    mini juice & coffee. 
    If you are interested in attending the breakfast, tickets must be purchased
    through the Zumbro Watershed Partnership by March 16.   

    Bring your email receipt to the breakfast as your ticket.  
  • 29 Jan 2014 11:11 AM | Anonymous
    Would you like to help monitor the health of our rivers? Somerby Golf Course is looking for a volunteer to help with river sampling.

    "We have all the equipment necessary to perform the tests, but am looking for a new water enthused volunteer (who can help us by) testing 4 to 6 times per season. If you happen to know of anyone interested, please send them my way."

    Eric Counselman
    Golf Course Superintendent
    Somerby Golf Club
    Office: 507-775-3743
    Cell: 920-918-0293
  • 22 Jan 2014 3:13 PM | Anonymous

    Everyone knows that excessive sediment (dirt) in the Zumbro River is leading to problems like shallow lakes, reduced fish populations, and mucky water. But since this sediment could be washing into the river from almost any of the 900,000 acres that make up the watershed, this has been a hard problem to get a handle on, until now


    The Identifying Priority Erosion Sites (IPES) project, funded by a grant from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) and managed by the Zumbro Watershed Partnership will provide the tools that local Soil and Water Conservation Districts will need to identify and prioritize erosion sites in their counties. Barr Engineering and University of Minnesota’s Dr. David Mulla are implementing the technical parts of the project using high-resolution GIS mapping data to identify which parts of the watershed (all the land that drains to the Zumbro River) that could have the biggest erosion problems.


    “Past studies in other watersheds have shown that up to 80% of the sediment in the region could be eroding from as little as 10-20% of the landscape,” said ZWP Executive Director Lawrence Svien. “By targeting our limited staff and funding resources on these erosion ‘hot spots’ we’ll see the best return on our conservation investments.”


    On Thursday, Dylan Timm from the University of Minnesota and Greg Wilson from Barr Engineering presented the project at the ZWP Partners Advisory Committee Meeting, a meeting of county, state, and city conservation and water professionals at the Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Science Center in Rochester.


    According to Wilson, the project is using high-resolution mapping data to identify places in the watershed where we would expect to see high levels of erosion, based on land slope and water flow. So far, this process identified hundreds of locations that could be erosion problems in the watershed.


    In February, Barr Engineering will hold a training for city, county, and state water professionals in the region to teach them how to use the tool that they have developed to identify and prioritize possible erosion sites in their county or city. Then these Soil and Water Conservation Districts will have a list of site they can focus on to reduce erosion and sediment in the Zumbro River.


    When asked what prevention measures people could use to reduce erosion, Wilson was clear.


    “It’s all about vegetative (green plant) stability,” said Wilson. “If you have an area without any plant cover, or an area without a buffer strip next to the river, you’re at a much higher risk of erosion.”


    Wilson pointed out that degraded forestland (without any green plant undergrowth), bare soil crop fields, eroded river banks, and gullies are all places where erosion can take hold. And that erosion will lead to sedimentation and murky brown water in the Zumbro River.


    For more information about this and other ways that the Zumbro Watershed Partnership is work for “Cleaner Water and Fewer Floods” in southeast Minnesota, visit

  • 04 Dec 2013 4:00 PM | Anonymous
    The state of Minnesota has proposed a new strategy to reduce the amount of fertilizer pollution in state rivers and lakes and they want to hear what we think about the plan. You have until Dec. 18 to send mail-in or email comments to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
    You can read a summary and get more "user-friendly" details about the strategy at:
    The full 285 page document is at:

    Questions to think about:
    1. Does the new strategy propose any new approaches, new funding, or new rules to address the ongoing nutrient pollution problems in Minnesota?
    2. Who is "responsible" for addressing excess nutrients under this strategy? Under current practice, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency can identify rivers that are "impaired" by excess nutrients, but they have no authority to regulate non-point sources of nutrient pollution.
    3. A recent MPCA Study identifies corn and soybean fields as the source of 70 percent of the nitrate pollution in Minnesota. Does this strategy take meaningful steps to address this study?  Do you think the strategy is sufficient or do you think it falls short.  What would you propose?

    Tips for Writing Effective Public Comments
    1.  Review and outline. Carefully review proposed strategy and make an outline of both your concerns and support for the proposed strategy. If you have more than one major concern about the strategy, begin with a summary of your "Major Concerns" and then provide details.
    2. Use headings and sub-headings to separate your points. Highlight your headings with some combination of spacing, color, capital letters, or bold, italic, or underlined font.

    3. For specific concerns, order your comments page-by-page to make it easier for the reviewer to locate the places in the document that you are referencing. Whenever possible, back up a concern with a solid example (either real or hypothetical). 

    4. Phrase your comments as statements, not questions. Use respectful language.

    5. State what you support as well as what you disagree with. The agency could revise parts of a document that you agree with, as well as parts that you don’tundefinedso it is a good idea to note the sections you support.


    6. Offer helpful solutions. Whenever possible, offer suggestions for how the document’s authors can address a concern or solve a problem (such as timing, design, etc.).

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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