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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 its 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, phosphorus, pH, chloride, and more are being monitored to find if they are exceeding natural and safe levels.

WHY

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

WHO

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 aid in completing the WRAPS report.

WHEN

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

Nutrients

Phosphorus and Nitrogen are naturally-occurring nutrients in any environment. Natural amounts of nutrients support 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 reduced oxygen levels in water, fish kills, a large decrease in the quality of recreation, and reduced water quality.

Excessive nutrients can enter our waterways through a mix of stormwater runoff, field runoff, and eroding banks but can be controlled through certain best management practices (BMPs). Some of the lakes within our watershed that are affected by excessive nutrients include North Turtle Lake, Lake Christina, and Perkins Lake.

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

Turbidity

Turbidity is the cloudiness caused by suspended or dissolved particles in water. These particles, most often in the form of sediments, enter water bodies from both natural sources like streambank erosion as well as human-induced disturbances.

In the field, turbidity is measured 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 small disk on a string to the point where the observer can no longer see the disk from the top of the tube. The Secchi disk used in lakes is a flat weighted disk attached to a rope, and is lowered by the observer from a watercraft until the observer can no longer see it.

High turbidity can significantly reduce the aesthetic quality of lakes, rivers, and streams. Turbidity can harm aquatic life in many ways, like clogging fishes’ gills or reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches native aquatic vegetation. This in turn can affect recreation and tourism. The Pomme de Terre WRAPS (Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy) report showed that the lower Pomme de Terre River and the Drywood Creek subwatershed have high turbidity.

E. coli

Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a common bacteria found in the digestive system of humans and animals. A high presence of E.coli in water bodies can indicate recent sewage or animal waste contamination.

We collected 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. Samples were shipped to laboratories to perform culturing of these samples.

The health of our water affects 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 Creek sub-watershed were considered impaired for high levels of E.coli.

Field Parameters

Many parameters of water quality can be measured directly in the field using specific sensors.

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

Specific Conductivity: Conductivity measures the water’s 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. It can be affected by number of things: 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 water quality. MPCA and DNR staff sample populations of fish and macroinvertebrates to understand how the current water quality affects the biodiversity of a water body. For example, macroinvertebrates such as midges and aquatic worms have a higher tolerance to pollution and poor water quality than do mayflies and stoneflies (pictured right). If a stream reach is found to have an abundance of highly-tolerant species and fewer less-tolerant macroinvertebrates, that 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.

CITIZENS VOLUNTEER MONITORING 

Want to get involved?

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) hosts 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).