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Over the past 2 weeks, 5 schools have sampled across the watershed:


School of Environmental Studies

Sampling the Vermillion River where it crosses Farmington, the SES students were greeted by clear waters nearly flowing out of the banks. The experienced crew got right to work and discovered a mostly healthy waterway, All of the metrics fell within a healthy range expect nitrates. Both samples taken on 4/13 were above the 3 mg/L range. This is not great for the river health, but also not particularly surprising due to all of the water flushing into the system from the snow melt. It will be important to collect nitrate readings in May to see if the high level of nitrates sustains itself into late Spring.


Eden Prairie High School

Eden Prairie High School's River Watch team sampled for their first time on 4/17 at Purgatory Creek in Purgatory Park. The morning was brisk, but the crew stuck it out and got a few rounds of sample data collected. It was a little too cold to find any bugs, but that didn't stop the crew from searching through the icy water (2.5 C/36 F). With no previous River Watch samplings to compare it to, the crew collected their baseline data. The Specific Conductivity (salt content), and the nitrates were both outside of healthy levels, so it will be interesting to compare it to the levels in May after the winter runoff has moved through the system.


Tri-City United

Two Tri-City United science classes sampled a creek connecting 2 rural lakes. When we sampled this site in the fall, the creek was completely dry. This time the creek was out of the banks, feeding nearby wetlands a constant supply of highly oxygenated water. It was great to see a wide variety of birds flying and swimming about under the mostly sunny skies. The crew found the levels of nitrates to be 3 timed higher than is healthy. There were some nearby farm fields, that according to the students, have started applying fertilizer already this spring. It will be interesting to see if the wetlands are effected by the high nitrate levels, or if all the existing vegetation can absorb the excess nutrients.


Bloomington Jefferson

The AP Biology students from Bloomington Jefferson enthusiastically embraced the impending Earth Day energy and started their sampling session with an awesome trash collecting session, transforming the aesthetic of the 9-Mile Creek Access. With 2 hours at our disposal, teams of students took turns collecting data, scooping for bugs, and picking up more trash. The bug collecting team really outdid themselves, finding 7 unique macroinvertebrates, some of which are highly sensitive to pollution (stonefly larvae). The macro survey combined with the water data indicated a basically healthy waterway, with slightly elevated salt levels.


Prior Lake High School

Six classes sampled the Credit River over two days. The first day was cold and rainy. It was great to see students brave the elements to collect a days worth of data. The data investigation was made less treacherous thanks to the shelter of the bus. It is worth noting that the river had elevated nitrate levels all day, likely due to the large quantity water dumped into it the previous day.

The second day of sampling, was cold, but without rain. Groups of students searched for bugs with minor success, while others picked up trash, and collected water data. The data from the second day indicated there was still elevated nitrate washing through the system. Luckily the portion of the river drains into a large wetland, which can likely absorb the excess nitrates.


Thanks to all the teams who have sampled so far this spring. I look forward to sampling with you in May!

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I have now had to the pleasure to lead the Minnesota River Basin's River Watch program for 1 year, and so I think it is time to release the Annual Report (see below).


It was an incredibly busy first year for me at the helm, and as such there is a lot of work detailed in the report. I feel so lucky to be apart of such an incredible program, empowering the next generation of scientists and stewards. While the report covers all of the programming, it relies on industry jargon and shorthand to communicate what the program and its participants achieved. What follows is my attempt to clarify the shorthand, and express the philosophical foundations for hands-on experiential place-based learning, that i witnessed play out across the last sampling season.


Hands-On Experiential Learning

No lesson is more impactful than the one we learn using our own two hands. This is where River Watch's philosophy of learning begins. By the time students participate in the River Watch program, they have spent years learning about water, chemistry, scientific observation, conservation, ecological dynamics etc. However, students are not typically familiar with the actual practices and equipment that professional scientists use to collect environmental data like water quality data. While there is some complexity to using this equipment correctly, students often just need the opportunity to get their hands on it and use it in the field to develop a competence with the sampling methods. It is so rewarding to see the students' confidence in their hands-on skills grow with each successive sampling session.

Using the equipment in its intended environment is an important part of the experience. In part, it helps demystify the image of "hard" science by demonstrating that with the right tools and a little know-how anyone can collect scientifically significant data. Fieldwork also provides a local context for the data. This not only grounds the data in a resources the student can experience first-hand, but also demonstrates the need for all people, professional and volunteer scientists alike, to be involved in the monitoring and care of their local resources. River Watch is guided by the idea that it takes all kinds of minds to collect meaningful data. My hope is that through the hands-on experience River Watch empowered as many young stewards to get involved in conservation as it did young scientists.


Placed-based Learning

Every River Watch team has a unique sampling experience because they are working with their own local water resources. By visiting the same site across the seasons, students gain a more complete picture of the specific factors impacting their local watershed. With the specific understanding of their local waters, students can focus their learning on strategies that are tailored towards improving the issues in their local water source. This is the essence of place-based learning.

The more time students can spend studying and exploring with the water resource, the deeper their bond with it will become. Developing this bond is crucial to fostering stewardship, because stewardship is built on a sense of responsibility to both the resource and those in your community who rely on it. (In this instance) One's sense of responsibility grows from understanding how you and your communities actions impact the watershed. It also grows from knowing how you can mitigate your community's negative impacts on the watershed. Once the impacts and mitigation strategies are understood, the only step left to become a steward is action. The likelihood any one person will take action to improve their local waters is directly related to their bond with the water and its surroundings. River Watch provides an opportunity for students to delve into the nuance of their local waters, providing both time to bond with the place, and information on what actions can be taken to improve the place's health.

In the coming year River Watch will work even harder to provide students meaningful avenues to act for the betterment of their local waters, and hopefully help students connect with the local waters they rely on.


FMV RW 2022 Annual Report
.pdf
Download PDF • 11.17MB



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In 2008, the states and provinces surrounding the Great Lakes (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec) joined together to manage and protect the largest collection of freshwater in the world. The agreement is known as the Great Lakes Compact. One of the main reasons the Compact was forged was to regulate water use from the Great Lakes.


There are 3 kinds of regulated water use:

Withdrawal - This includes any action that takes ground or surface water from the Great Lakes Basin

Consumptive Use - This includes any withdrawal that is not returned to the Basin because it is used up or lost to evaporation.

Diversion - This includes moving or transporting water from the Great Lakes Basin to any other watershed outside the Basin’s borders.


While the first 2 types mostly apply to entities within the watershed, Diversion regulates how water moves outside the watershed borders. To date, there is only one instance of an approved water diversion from the Great Lakes Basin to Waukesha, WI, a community on the border of the watershed. The rules for water diversion are strictly enforced, and any request for diversion must be approved by the Great Lakes Compact Council.


There is currently a national discussion surrounding the need to ship water to the Western United States to support the growing population and relieve the stress of persistent drought. The Great Lakes Compact Council will undoubtedly face requests for water diversion to the Western United States. Using the regulation tools created by the Compact, the Council can assess the potential impacts to the Great Lakes Basin and weigh them against the requests for water diversions. Without this legal collective, the Great Lakes would face growing pressure to divert water outside the Basin, and there would be no group to assess and regulate the impact of withdrawal, consumption, and diversions.


The Council wields regulatory powers that are becoming increasingly relevant as the United States faces clean water shortages. As such, it faces the dilemma of responsibility to protect the regional water use weighed against the needs of the greater United States.


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