Tell us your water stories

In Freshwater’s July 2013 newsletter, Executive Director Joan Nephew reminisced about her early exposure to the wonders of a river in summertime. Then she asked readers of the newsletter to submit their stories about water’s influence on their lives.

Here is Joan’s remembrance:

Joan Nephew
Joan Nephew

It was nice to have our Minnesota “week” of summer, where the temperature hovered around 90 degrees and everything seemed to slow down a bit.

 It reminded me of the lazy days of my childhood when my brothers and I would slip away from my Mom and her constant reminder to “stay away from the river” and, of course, sneak down to the river – the Sand Hill river near Fertile, Minn. 

This meandering river was slow and shallow during July and the sand from glacial Lake Agassiz created places where the water was crystal clear.  It was there I learned about all the critters in the river: the minnows, crayfish, red horse suckers and the darting chubs that we would catch.

 We would take turns sitting on a huge rock in the center of the river that had a perfect indentation for the seat of a child.  We would take the “wheel” and pretend we were the “captain” of the river and all of its creatures. 

We did learn however, to stay away from the darker side of the river, downstream from the outlet of the sanitary sewer from town. 

It would be years before I would learn about the damage this type of pollution wreaks on our waters. But the fascination, curiosity and love for rivers, streams and lakes and all their creatures took hold at a very young age and has never let go.

What’s your story about how water grabbed you?  Share your story with us at

Almost immediately, Melba Hensel, who works in Hennepin County’s Environmental Services Departent, responded with this story:

The Freshwater Society asked for personal water stories. Well – I tell people that I have been an environmental professional “since the dawn of the first Earth Day.”

I grew up in Otter Tail County on the Continental Divide. The southwest corner of our farm drained to the Otter Tail and Red Rivers, and then obviously to Hudson Bay. The east side of the farm drained to the east – a wetland Bluff Creek to Leaf River to the Crow Wing and eventually to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. I understood the concepts of basins and drainage areas from a young age. My dad also didn’t till the fields immediately next to the wetland, providing a buffer strip between the cultivated area and the drainage to the creek.

In 1970, I was a graduate assistant in the Biology Department at Moorhead State (now Minnesota State University Moorhead). On the first Earth Day celebration at the Fargo Civic Center, we collected some samples of the Red River, which as usually is the case during the third week of April, the river was very turbid and laden with sediment in its regular spring high flows. It was impressive when one recognized that the solid material was the fertile soil of the Otter Tail, Red, and James and Sheyenne River basins.

And after all that, I am still working as an environmental professional in Minnesota after 42 years with about 34 years spent in water monitoring and analysis and wastewater treatment with state and regional government. And there has been improvement since 1971 when I first entered the profession!

Tell us your story. Post it on your Facebook page and let us know you did, and we’ll re-post it to Freshwater’s Facebook page. Or send us your story by email.

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