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The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) invited River Watch to present at the MN State Fair as part of their community partners series. It’s always exciting to present at the Fair because there is a certain magic as people from across the state (and country) congregate to celebrate the end of summer. Curious folks from all walks of life stopped by the River Watch booth to investigate the mystery river water we collected and learn about the current state of three of Minnesota’s largest rivers: Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix.

What stood out to me about our day at the fair was meeting so many people concerned about the state of our water, and looking for ways to do their part to clean it up. So here are some actions you can take to do your part:

  • Clean up the Storm Drains: Storm drain grates collect refuse from our neighborhood (leaves, trash, sand) and all of that travels unfiltered into natural waters. By cleaning up the storm drain near you, you can help minimize the pollution moving from your neighborhood.

  • Collect Lawn Waste: Lawn waste (cut grass, leaves etc.) is filled with Nitrates which are a significant source of pollution in Minnesota waters. By bagging up, composting, or repurposing your lawn waste, you are helping to keep it out of natural waters.

  • Use the Rain: Install a rain barrel on your gutter (DIY Instructions). Rain barrels collect storm runoff, which can be used to water plants. Plants do not need water that is purified to standards for human consumption. By using the collected rainwater, you lessen the demand for clean drinkable water, which in turn saves energy and helps us maintain the longevity of our water supply.

  • You can also convert your garden to a rain garden! The main feature of a rain garden is it has a deep basin-like center that collects rainwater and allows it to filter down into the ground. By encouraging rainwater infiltration, you reduce the potential for polluted runoff, and increase the water storage capacity of the land around you.

There are more ways to help [Clean up your animal waste!], but hopefully these three tips help get you started.

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Check out our Year End Report and see all of the cool work River Watch has been doing in the Minnesota River Basin.

Minnesota River Watch Final REport
Download PDF • 68.53MB

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In the first ever Cross-Grade Collaborative Project, Prior Lake High Schoolers led students from Redtail Elementary through an exploration of macroinvertebrates* and how they can help scientists assess the health of a waterway. The lesson was preceded by two days of macroinvertebrate collection (one day of practice, one day of actual collection). Prior Lake River Watch Teams identified 15 different species among the wide variety of macroinvertebrates netted from the Credit River right across the street from both schools.

The day of the lesson, groups of elementary students were paired with 2-4 High School students, who led them through a game and lesson on the importance of macroinvertebrates. The students were then able to view the collection of local macroinvertebrates under microscopes. It was incredible to see the High Schooler’s get to stretch their teaching muscles and engage younger students in a hands-on activity.

I need to extend a huge thanks to all of the teachers involved in planning the activity day, and collaborating with River Watch to bring this amazing experience to fruition!

Macroinvertebrate Lesson Background

Macroinvertebrates are water bugs that are big enough to view without a microscope. The biodiversity of macroinvertebrate species is a good indicator of the health of a stream. On this metric, the Credit River sampling site excels with 15 unique species identified, and more that were not conclusively identified.

More importantly however, is the identification of pollution sensitive macroinvertebrates, like the Mayfly Larvae. Mayfly larvae are particularly sensitive to pollution due to their external gills. Most species of Mayfly have 7 or more sets of external gills, which they use to draw water into their bodies and filter the oxygen from the water. The act of drawing water into their bodies exposes their internal processes to any pollutants to the water. The Prior Lake River Watch collected a staggering amount of mature mayflies, indicating that during the spring season, the Credit River contained low levels of pollution.

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