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River Watch was lucky to present at State Fair’s Eco-Experience Building on September 3rd, sponsored by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Joining the other incredible stations presenting on water topics in Minnesota, River Watch focused on challenging fair-goers' ideas of the quality of large rivers in Minnesota, and spread awareness about common water pollutants found in one’s home.

With two fish tanks of water, one sample from the Minnesota River, one sample from the Mississippi, fair-goers were asked to identify which water came from which river. People of all ages, from the very young to the elderly took a guess based on the appearance of the water samples. The water from the Minnesota River, taken from a stretch in Bloomington, was clouded with sediment, and was impossible to see through. The water from the Mississippi, taken near the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, was generally clear with only a slight haze to the water. What became clear throughout the day is that people throughout Minnesota (and US) had drastically differing experiences with the Mississippi River, many of which reflected a version of the Mississippi after it had joined with the Minnesota River. This is because the Minnesota River is a large contributor of sediment to the Mississippi, so those that experience the Mississippi after its confluence with the Minnesota River know the river to be murky with sediment, and unpleasant to swim in. These perceptions lead many folks to incorrectly identify the Minnesota River water as the clearer water sample, and make clear the impact living downstream can have on one’s relationship with the river.

It was fascinating to talk to people from all backgrounds, and listen to their questions, observations, and stories about water quality in Minnesota. Many were surprised to learn that lawn waste, sediment, and road salt are all common water pollutants that cause very different problems. Luckily, reducing one’s contribution of these pollutants to water only takes a few easy changes to regular home tasks. My hope is that all those that visited the booth learned some way they can help improve water quality in their community; and also took some time to reflect on the importance of Minnesota’s water resources, a resource that is frequently taken for granted.

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Please check out the Summer River Watch Report for an update on what we were up to this summer!

RW Report 7.22 (1)
Download PDF • 1.76MB

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Working as the Coordinator of River Watch is a dream come true for me. As a child of the water, I hold the lakes, rivers, and streams of Minnesota close to my heart. Nowhere else offers me the peace, beauty, and joy that Minnesota waters hold. I have long wished to engage other young people in caring for their local waters, and with some perseverance, and a great deal of good timing, I have found myself in a position to do just that.

My vision for River Watch is threefold:

First, I see River Watch as a way to involve students of all racial, social, and economic backgrounds in the present and future health of Minnesota’s waters. We can only achieve our goal of clean water if the effort actively includes input from traditionally marginalized communities, who are often the people experiencing the worst effects of water pollution.

By focusing on:

  • the knowledge surrounding water quality topics,

  • the scientific practice of collecting field data

  • the investigation of potential causes and effects on water health

We work to ensure each student leaves River Watch with the skills and information that enable them to be a more effective steward and clean water advocate in their community.

Second, I see River Watch as a program that can reach students in all grades. Currently, River Watch works with high school classes, but as our capacity expands, so will the grades we include in the program. I have already created a water curriculum geared towards younger students that is being used by the Green Crew for their day camp. Moving into the schools, the ideal implementation of this curriculum includes high school River Watchers as the leaders of lessons and activities for the younger group. By involving all ages of students in the education around clean water, we can hope to build a culture of water stewardship at each school.

Third, I envision a program that impacts students beyond the walls of the classroom. Water is a critical part of every person’s life and always will be. Learning how one’s actions negatively impact water quality is the first step to changing one’s behaviors. Learning how to study water quality is the first step towards identifying the problems facing our waters. Learning how to analyze water data is the first step to advocating for solutions. River Watch is positioned to serve as the basis for engaging the future water stewards and scientists of Minnesota.

Finally, I wanted to thank each teacher and student that participated in the spring sampling season. You all did great work collecting data throughout the basin. We can’t wait to get back out in the field collecting data again. Until then, I hope you get to spend some time on the water.

Tom Crawford

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