MPCA publishes first-of-its-kind report on condition of Minnesota’s rivers and streams

How healthy are Minnesota’s rivers and streams? How do our land use choices affect water quality and aquatic life? Do conditions vary in different parts of the state? These are some of the questions the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is working toward answering in its newly published report, “The Condition of Rivers and Streams in Minnesota”.

From 1995-2006, and again in 2010-11, the MPCA conducted two statewide water monitoring surveys, at randomly selected sites, to help researchers characterize the condition of rivers and streams throughout Minnesota. This is known as probabilistic surveying.  Probabilistic surveys allow researchers to form conclusions about the condition of rivers and streams across the state with a known degree of certainty, much like a political poll.  Information from the two surveys provides insight on current conditions and how different patterns of land use are associated with water quality and aquatic life. And now, for the first time, combined results of the surveys are available in the full condition of rivers and streams report on the MPCA web site.

According to MPCA Biologist April Lueck, and co-author of the report, a third survey will begin in 2015, which, “combined with this report will help further identify short-term changes,  build on our understanding of long-term trends, and aid in the development of watershed restoration and protection strategies throughout the state.”

Among the many interesting findings in this report, some highlights include:

  • The likelihood of finding healthy aquatic life in streams is dependent on both natural and human factors.
  • Nearly 50% of Minnesota’s streams have been altered to promote drainage for agriculture and urban development.
  • The state was divided into three regions based on soils, vegetation, topography, and land use. River and stream conditions generally range from very good in the northeast region to poor in the southwest region.
  • The report established baseline conditions for Minnesota’s rivers and streams, so that future surveys can track changes in overall river health.

The full report is available on the MPCA’s Biological monitoring of water in Minnesota web page.

For more information about the MPCA’s monitoring program activities, visit the MPCA’s water quality condition monitoring web page.

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