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Watershed Monitoring


Intensive Watershed Monitoring Cycle 2

In 2007, the Pomme de Terre was the first major watershed area to complete the first round of the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) report. This MPCA-lead program allows watershed areas to monitor existing water conditions, find priority areas, and provides strategies best suited for tackling issues effecting water quality on a 10-year cycle.

Now, in 2017, the Pomme de Terre has started it’s second round of WRAPS that will give us an updated view on what’s happening in the watershed and where we need to go from here.

Pomme de Terre Cycle 1 WRAPS

PDTRA is monitoring 30+ sites throughout the 2017 and 2018 field season to gain valuable information on stream health. Parameters such as E. coli, Phosphorous, pH, Chloride, and more are being monitored to find if they are exceeding natural and safe levels.


Monitoring is an important part water resource management.With the information provided through monitoring efforts PDTRA and involved organization can determine where conservation efforts should be focused in order to make the most impact on water quality and quantity


For the 2nd cycle of WRAPS, PDTRA is completing the chemistry investigation throughout the watershed. Other agencies such as MPCA and DNR are also completing biological and geomorphological surveys that will add in completing the WRAPS report.


The WRAPS proccess is completed every 10 year. the PdT completed our first round in 2007, and began our second round in 2017


Phosphorous and Nitrogen are natural occurring nutrients in any environment. Natural amounts of nutrients supports growth of aquatic plants and algae that provide food and habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms.

However too much of anything can have negative consequences. Excessive nutrients in our aquatic systems produce larger and faster-growing algae than the ecosystem can manage.These algae blooms can prevent sunlight from reaching other plants,leading to severely reducing or eliminate oxygen levels in water, fish kills, a large decrease in the quality of recreation-ability, and ultimately reducing water quality.

Excessive nutrients can enter our waterways through a mix of storm-water runoff, field runoff, and eroding banks but can be controlled through certain Best Management Practices. Some of the lakes within our watershed that are effected by excessive nutrients include North Turtle Lake, Lake Christina, and Perkins Lake.

  • Secchi disk for lakes
  • Secchi Tube for streams and rivers


Turbidity is caused by suspended or dissolved particles in water that cause lakes, rivers, and streams to look cloudy. These particles, most often in the form of sediments, enter water bodies from both the natural background such as a stream bank and accelerated human-induced disturbance.

In the field, turbidity is tested by how clear or murky the water is by measuring with either a secchi tube, for streams, or secchi disk, for lakes. A secchi tube is a 1 meter long clear plastic tube. After filling up the tube with stream water the observer lowers a a small disk on a string until the point where the disk disappears. The same procedure applies to lakes without the tube.

High turbidity can significantly reduce the aesthetic quality of lakes, rivers, and streams, have a harmful impact on aquatic life by impacting gills and spawning beds or impacting light nessicary for native aquatic vegetation. This in return can effect recreation, and tourism. The Lower Pomme de Terre River and Drywood Sub-Watershed have shown high turbidity through the Pomme de Terre  WRAPS. (Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy)


E.coli is a common bacteria found in the digestive system of humans and animals. A high presence of E.coli can be a strong indication of recent sewage or animal waste contamination.

We collect E.coli samples as part of our Cycle 2 WRAPS from sections of the Pomme de Terre River and streams in the watershed to determine E.Coli levels that are present in 100 mL of water. Samples are shipped to laboratories to perform culturing of these samples.

The health of our waters effects the health of our communities. High levels of E.coli in nearby waterways could affect important aspects of our community such as drinking water and recreation. From previous intensive watershed monitoring and Cycle 1 WRAPS The Lower Pomme de Terre River and Drywood Sub-Watershed were considered impaired for high E.coli.

Field Parameters

Many parameters of water quality can be measured directly In the field using an sonde electric field meter with specific sensors.

Temperature: the temperature is always changing with the seasons, but too warm of waters for too long can have adverse effects on aquatic life.

Specific Conductivity: Conductivity measures the waters ability to conduct electricity. This gives us information on salinity (concentration of dissolved salts). A higher conductivity value indicates that there are more chemicals dissolved in the water. Common ions in water that lead to higher conductivity include sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium.

pH: pH tells us how basic or acidic our water is. pH can be affected by number of things from the composition of the stream bed, plant growth, decomposing organic materials releasing Carbon Dioxide, and outside chemicals that may be entering our streams. Most aquatic life is sensitive to the changes in pH level and an imbalance could become toxic to many species.

Biological Assessment

Biological assessments of streams and lakes can help determine the current state of our water quality. MPCA and DNR staff sample populations of fish and macroinvertebrates to gain a better understanding what effects the current water quality has on the biodiversity of a water body. In example, macroinvertebrates such as midges and aquatic worms have a higher tolerance to pollution and poor water quality as opposed to mayflies and stonefly’s (pictured right) whom have a very low tolerance. If, through a series of sampling events, a stream reach is found to have an abundant number of high-tolerant species and a lack of mayflies or other low-tolerant macroinvertebrate then it may be an indicator of poor water quality.

Measurements for fish and macroinvertebrate assessments are recorded as “IBI” – Index of Biological Integrity and are a part of the Pomme de Terre River Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Report.


Want to get Involved?

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) hosts a Citizen Monitoring Programs. With 69,000 miles of streams and over 14,000 lakes in Minnesota, more volunteer monitors are needed to help track the health of our waters. No prior experience or training is required – just a love of water. All equipment and training is provided by the MPCA free of charge.

Join more than 1,400 Minnesotans who track the health of their favorite lake or stream — become a citizen water monitor today!

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 Citizen water monitoring enrollment webpage, or call 651-296-6300 (Twin Cities) or 800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota).