May 10, 2019

Minnesota District Monitors Water Quality

The Cedar River Watersheld District is undergoing “intensive water quality monitoring” in Austin, Minn.

 The Cedar River Watersheld District is undergoing “intensive water quality monitoring” in Austin, Minn.

Every 10 years, the state of Minnesota monitors local stream quality. This process is called intensive water monitoring. According to the Austin Daily Herald, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) collects additional data during this process to help detect if water quality is improving.

In Minnesota, the Cedar River Watershed District (CRWD) staff has sampled 10 sites about 10 times a year for water quality monitoring. The sites are sampled after rainfall and during baseflow when there has not been recent precipitation, according to the Austin Daily Herald.

“Monitoring the water is like doing a health check-up; you have to detect the problems before you can prescribe a solution,” said Susan Olson, a CRWD board member and chair of the Cedar River One Watershed, One Plan’s Policy Committee, to the Austin Daily Herald. “These efforts will show problem areas and help us prioritize areas for restoration and protection.”

Biological monitoring will be added to MPCA’s study of the populations of fish and macroinvertebrates. According to the Austin Daily Herald, the monitoring aims to calculate the health of 80 watersheds in Minnesota.

“In Minnesota, we have both chemical and biological water-quality standards for our streams,” said Bill Thompson, MPCA project manager, to the Daily Herald. “We need to understand both in order to track the health of a watershed and river system like the Cedar.”

The intensive water monitoring was first conducted in 2009 by MPCA in the Cedar River watershed. According to the Daily Herald, monitoring showed challenges in the watershed, including high levels of sediment. Also present were high nutrient levels that lead to poor water quality.

The data was used by CRWD, Soil & Water Conservation Districts, and the city of Austin, to determine the amount of pollutants that rivers and lakes can accept to still meet standards. Data also was used to develop strategies to restore the Cedar River’s water quality.

According to the Daily Herald, the CRWD’s goals include flood reduction and improved water quality. The district has finished 9 of 25 projects for water quality and floodings under the nearly $9 million Capital Improvement Plan.

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