Our Lakes, Rivers & Streams


May & June Theme

Why Designate a Year of Water?

The Freshwater Society and partners want to raise the awareness among citizens about our water resources and how we can protect them in our everyday lives. We are providing education resources as well as activities for taking action to protect our lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and groundwater. From snow and ice to lakes and rivers, we will be covering six water topics in twelve months! Check back here frequently as we will be posting new information all year long.



Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, actually has over 12,200! When was the last time you were fishing, swimming or boating?

Tour the Mississippi on Your Computer
Lakes Appreciation Month
Water Minute
Teacher Workshop
Water is Life Art Contest
A Study of Minnesota’s Water Resources: Give Your Input
This Lake Matters Contest


Partner Spotlight: What’s Happening Around the State

Resources: Find Out More



Learn More: Water Quality of our Lakes, Rivers & Streams

Stormwater Runoff

When water in the form of rain and snow falls on land, it can evaporate, infiltrate, or run off the land to a lake, stream or wetland. In areas with natural vegetation such as forests and prairies, most rainfall infiltrates into the ground where it is used by plants and trees to grow or it is stored as ground water. When buildings, roads, and other impervious surfaces cover the land water cannot seep into the ground, causing water to run off to a storm drains, or a nearby pond, wetland or stream. Water flowing over land carries pollutants including soil, lawn and farm chemicals, leaves, oil and gasoline, road salt, and trash to storm drains which often empty directly to lakes or streams. Thus, all activities in our yards, streets, agricultural lands, etc. directly affect water quality in nearby and far away lakes and streams.

What is stormwater runoff doing to our lakes, rivers and streams?

Healthy lakes, rivers and streams are biological communities that exist through interactions among plants, animals, and microorganisms, as well as the chemical and physical environment in which they live. Aquatic environments are often negatively impacted by activities on the land in the watershed.

Serious impacts of pollution to lakes and streams in Minnesota as well as in other places in the United States are:

Sedimentation and eutrophication
Soil erosion in the watershed surrounding a lake causes it to become increasingly shallow as it fills in with sediment. Soil also carries nutrients such as phosphorus which fertilize the lake causing algae and other plants to grow excessively. As the lake fills in with soil and the plants die and decompose, the lake gradually becomes more like a wetland. The decomposing plants lower oxygen levels in the water which can cause fish kills and a loss of desirable fish, and degrade the recreational and aesthetic qualities of the lake. This process is known as eutrophication. This commonly leads to a decrease in plant and animal diversity due to habitat changes and decreases in water clarity.

Invasive species proliferation
Aquatic invasive species have a negative impact on their environment. Their ability to grow fast makes them successful competitors with native species. They typically have high rates of survival, reproduction, and spread because in their new environment they lack predators and competitors. Invasive species negatively impact lakes and streams by changing the food web or physical environment which hurts native plants and animals and lowers water quality.

Loss of species diversity
Freshwater ecosystems support an estimated 12% of all animal species. Habitat alteration and destruction is the biggest threat to species diversity. Chemicals such as pesticides and road salt that become part of stormwater runoff can be toxic to small organisms and fish that are part of the aquatic food web. Organisms that cannot thrive in an altered environment are replaced by other species, reducing the health and diversity of the lake or stream. A loss of one species can affect the whole aquatic system.

Water Quality Status and Monitoring in Minnesota

Many state agencies are responsible for testing Minnesota’s lakes and streams and producing clean up plans for waters that are polluted. Currently:

  • It is estimated that most of the pollution to our surface waters comes from diffuse sources such as urban and agricultural runoff and leaching from septic systems. Regulation efforts over the last 30 years have been successful in limiting the water pollution from sources such as municipal sewage treatment plants and industrial facilities.
  • Only about 18% of our lakes and 14% of our rivers in Minnesota have been evaluated for pollution as required by the federal Clean Water Act.


Of the waters that have been evaluated, 40% are polluted and are designated as “impaired” under the federal law because they fail to meet water quality standards. Lakes and streams are tested for meeting “fishable and swimmable” standards. They are designated as “impaired” by failing to meet one or more of these standards. Lakes and streams are assessed for meeting these standards by the ability of the water body to support aquatic life, recreation, and human consumption of fish.


Celebrate Lakes Appreciation Month this July

To draw attention to the value and importance of lakes and reservoirs, North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) sponsors an annual Lakes Appreciation Month. This is a true North American event. As such, it is intended to be celebrated throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. The celebration typically coincides with Independence Day (July 4) in the U.S. and with Canada Day (July 1) in Canada. Both of these holidays provide people with the opportunity to get out and enjoy lakes.

Lakes Appreciation Month also overlaps with The Great American Secchi Dip-In. The Dip-In is sponsored by NALMS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Dip-In organizes citizen volunteers in existing volunteer lake monitoring programs to measure water transparency with a simple device called a Secchi disk. Collected data are compiled and analyzed at Kent State University. Regional lake transparency trends are reported in a color map.


h2o_minute3Tips for Protecting Water – Featured on KARE 11

Watch the new Summer Water Minute Protecting our Lakes, Rivers, and Streams, a series featuring seasonal water facts during 2010 – The Year of Water and find resources to learn more about what you can do!


Free Summer Teacher Workshop Announced

The Freshwater Society and Orono Community Education invite teachers to Orono Environmental Camp on the Big Island in Lake Minnetonka. The workshop will focus on the Freshwater Society’s new Water Curriculum and is free and open to all teachers. There are four dates to choose from.

Journey to Big Island in the middle of Lake Minnetonka to learn about the new water curriculum developed by the Freshwater Society and experience teaching and learning outdoors. What better way to learn than to be come immersed in lessons which meet new MN Science Standards by participating in the Environmental Camp offered by Orono Community Education which is now in its fifth year on Big Island.

You will travel by pontoon to the island with naturalist Marleane Callaghan and teacher Jake Westrom who will be leading this week focused on water issues and aquatic life. You will participate in hands on learning as students learn about water resources, aquatic life, water conservation, threats to our water supply and more. Water curriculum is designed for students in 4th and 5th grade, but can be adapted to lower or higher grades. All participants will receive a printed or CD copy .

Choose any one of the dates listed. Register early, space is limited each day.

Monday, June 28
Tuesday, June 29
Wednesday, June 30
Thursday, July 1

Meet at 9am at the Minnetonka Yacht Club Marina on Carson’s Bay in Deephaven (19800 Minnetonka Blvd). Return time is 3:00 pm. Dress to be outdoors and bring water shoes or sandals as well as a bag lunch, snacks and water.

Teachers: Earn 6 CEU’s and receive new curriculum resources for teaching about one of our greatest resources – FRESHWATER.
Certificates of completion offered through the Orono School District. Curriculum materials and funding for this training provided by the Freshwater Society.

For more information or to register contact Melanie DeLuca at mdeluca@orono.k12.mn.us



Water is Life Art Contest Winners

See the winning artwork submitted by young people as part of the sixth annual Water is Life contest. The contest provides an opportunity for students to create extraordinary based on the theme “Water is Life”. Congratulations to the 2010 scholarship winners!

Artist: Brandon Cole
Stewartville High School
Instructor: Ronda Baldner

A Study of Minnesota’s Water Resources: Give Your Input

Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework

The University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center has been charged by the Minnesota State Legislature to develop the framework for sustainable water management, a set of recommendations that will protect and preserve Minnesota’s lakes, stream, rivers and ground waters for the 21st century and beyond without compromising people’s current needs, water quality or natural ecosystems.

Take the Minnesotans and Their Water Survey: click here

Enter the “This Lake Matters” Contest Sponsored by Conservation Minnesota

We all have a special lake. Maybe you have a cabin next to it, maybe it’s in the city and you visit it all the time, or maybe you’ve only been there once but your memories are fond. Whatever your reason, we want to know what lake matters to you and why. Photographs and videos (the “Images”) will be collected from May 13 through September 6, 2010. Learn more.


Central Minnesota Water Education Alliance Sponsors “Make the Water Connection” Contest

For the past four years, the Central Minnesota Water Education Alliance (CMWEA) has sponsored a competition for high-school students to produce a 30 second television ad to promote ways everyone can protect water. The students can pick one of the Top Ten Water Protection Tips that the group writes every year to base their video on.

CMWEA has announced the winners of the 2010 TV Ad Contest, with entries from Rocori and Sauk Rapids-Rice high schools claiming this year’s top honors. Click on the links below to view the winning videos!


A Day On The Ice


Strangers Good Advice


Carwash Toxins



Aqua Girl





May is American Wetlands Month!

wetlandsThis May will mark the 20th anniversary of American Wetlands Month, a time when EPA and its partners in federal, state, tribal, local, non-profit, and private sector organizations celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to the Nation’s ecological, economic, and social health. It is also a great opportunity to discover and teach others about the important role that wetlands play in our environment and the significant benefits they provide – improved water quality, increased water storage and supply, reduced flood and storm surge risk, and critical habitat for plants, fish, and wildlife. To read more about it check out the EPA website here!



Protecting Our Water – Protecting Our Health
Conservation – Preserving Our Water

Saturday, May 8, 2010


tabling bulos

Jon Foley, Institute
on the

Mississippi River Green Team, Mississippi Watershed
Management Organization
Gemma Bulos, A Single Drop

If you attended the event, please click here to take a brief survey.

This forum, the third in a series of three concerned with protecting our water, our health, and the environment discussed the ways we can conserve water at home and work, how to create and maintain a rain garden, how to utilize water-saving products available on the market and “green” building techniques that incorporate water sustainability.

Moderated by Joan Nephew, executive director of the Freshwater Society, the panel included: Dr. Jonathan Foley, professor and director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Foley’s presentation “Living on a Shrinking Planet: Challenges and Opportunities for a Sustainable Future” highlighted broad scale environmental issues including water scarcity. Sam Lieberman, ardent advocate and author of published articles on water issues discussed the need for more “Water Care” supporters and the water conservation policies of Isreal. Jenny Winkelman, education and outreach manager at the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization described the need for everyone to be involved in their watershed and described some of the work her organization is doing with the Hmong community in the watershed.

Concurrent breakout sessions featured:

Creekside Commons, a new “green” construction – at the Mayflower Church site designed by Urban Works Architects that will house 30 workforce families. The $8 million project is funded by the City of Minneapolis, Federal Stimulus funds, Mayflower Congregational Church, Plymouth Foundation, and others.

Becky Rice, executive director of Metro Blooms, spoke about designing and maintaining rain gardens. Metro Blooms has provided residents in the area with over 50 grants for rain gardens.

Aisha Gomez of the Women’s Environmental Institute, Julie Warner of Warners’ Stellian, and Darrell Gerber of Clean Water Action provided information on water saving products available today and methods for reducing water use.

Nationally known irrigation expert Timothy Malooly of Water in Motion described tools and methods for homeowners and gardening enthusiasts to practice water efficiency in the outdoor environment.

This series was sponsored by: League of Women Voters Minneapolis, Freshwater Society, Clean Water Action, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Healthy Legacy Coalition, Lake Harriet Methodist Church, League of Women Voters Minnesota, Mayflower Congregational Earthwise Committee, and Women’s Environmental Institute.

Partner Spotlight: What’s Happening Around the State

Cannon River Watershed Partnership
Citizen Monitoring Program



Cannon River Watershed Partnership (CRWP) aims for the same goals that most of us here in Minnesota desire to achieve, water that is swimmable, drinkable and fishable. The mission of CRWP is simple, “to engage people in protecting and improving the water quality and natural systems of the Cannon River watershed.”

CRWP was founded in 1990 with the support of the Nature Conservancy, the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources and the Department of Natural Resources. However, it could not be possible without the hard work of concerned citizens. These citizens and volunteers for CRWP have been heavily involved in the Citizen Monitoring Program. This program has enabled CRWP to acquire crucial knowledge of the quality of our lakes and streams.

In addition to already implemented programs for water quality testing, CRWP was presented with a Surface Water Assessment Grant in 2009 as well as in 2010-2011 to expand their testing capabilities. Currently, CRWP staff and volunteers work together to collect data from thirty-three streams and four lakes in the Cannon River watershed that have lacked evaluation in the past. Data collected from this monitoring is then passed on to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) as they develop the Impaired Waters list. MPCA then uses this list to assess the health of Minnesota’s waters to better protect and restore them.

Last year, Cannon River Watershed Partnership received the Outstanding Citizen Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program of the year award from Minnesota Waters. By volunteering for programs such as these, people become more aware of their environment such as why water levels are low or why clarity of the water can fluctuate. Exceptionally dedicated volunteers of the Citizen Monitoring Program have even advanced further in their efforts by becoming board members of CRWP. Minnesota’s waters are vast and hard to thoroughly assess, but with programs implemented by organizations like CRWP, we as a state are better able to assess and improve our waters. To find out more about CRWP’s Citizen Monitoring Program, contact Lucas Bistodeau, Water Monitoring Program Coordinator, at (507) 786-3912 or lucas@crwp.net or click here. To find opportunities in your area to volunteer for stream or lake monitoring check out the MPCA website here.

Resources: Find Out More

Find a fact sheet on what’s polluting our lakes here.

Read more about ways that you can keep lakes clean.

Are you building or remodeling your home? Click here to find cost-effective ways to help protect our lakes and streams.

Here are 10 Ways You Can Help Protect our Lakes, Rivers and Streams.

Register for our E-Newsletter and stay informed about new programs and resources.

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