Feature Stories

With more than 11,000 lakes, 69,000 miles of rivers and streams, 10 million acres of wetlands, and complex groundwater hydrology, Minnesota’s water resources are diverse. Those resources have a correspondingly complex set of challenges. Over the past several months, the WRC’s Extension water resources team has grown to help ensure that we have the background, technical knowledge, and relationships to respond. 

Itasca Waters, a non-profit group in northeastern Minnesota, is building a program with the long-term goal of having healthier shorelines on -- and cleaner water in -- Itasca County’s 457 lakes. To achieve that goal, people will need to change the way they manage their lakefront properties: shorelines restored to native vegetation, surface water runoff redirected away from the lake, septic systems upgraded to meet modern-day standards, smaller lawns and no fertilizers. These are not new ideas … but it’s been hard to implement change on a large scale. How does Itasca Waters plan to get it done?

Routine monitoring of Minnesota water quality using conventional field sampling is challenging and expensive due to the over 10,000 freshwater lakes spread across nearly 87,000 square miles. On the other hand, the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center and Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Laboratory have been utilizing the capabilities of satellite imagery to estimate optical water quality parameters from space for over twenty years. 

I have been studying a small shrimp-like organism that lives in the sediment at the bottom of Lake Superior called Diporeia.  Diporeia are vital to the Great Lakes food web as they are rich in lipids and are eaten by commercial species like whitefish as well as smaller fish. They are one of two invertebrate species that drive the food web in Lake Superior along with the zooplankton Mysis. But Diporeia have been disappearing in all of the Great Lakes except for Lake Superior and researchers don’t yet know why. 

In 2018, the UMN Center for Changing Landscapes, in partnership with the IonE Natural Capitol Project, conducted the first-ever statewide survey of Minnesotans on water values.  The survey was created by co-PIs Mae Davenport (FR, WRS faculty) and Bonnie Keeler. The mail survey asked residents about their values, beliefs, and behaviors associated with the state’s waters, and their priorities for water quality spending from the Clean Water Legacy Funds (CWF). Nearly 1500 people across the state responded to the survey. Some key findings are shown in the “Minnesota Water Values” fact sheet. The survey findings have been shared with the Clean Water Council, which advises the State Legislature on its water quality spending decisions. 

For decades phosphorus (P) management in the United States has focused on upgrades to waste water treatment plants and erosion control as a primary means of reducing negative impacts of excess P loading to lakes and riversFor decades phosphorus (P) management in the United States has focused on upgrades to waste water treatment plants and erosion control as a primary means of reducing negative impacts of excess P loading to lakes and riversFor decades phosphorus (P) management in the United States has focused on upgrades to waste water treatment plants and erosion control as a primary means of reducing negative impacts of excess P loading to lakes and riversFor decades phosphorus (P) management in the United States has focused on upgrades to waste water treatment plants and erosion control as a primary means of reducing negative impacts of excess P loading to lakes and rivers

Eco-journalist Mark Hertsgaard didn’t mince words during his speech at the Minnesota Climate Adaptation Conference, held November 14, 2018 at the Continuing Education Building on the UMN St. Paul campus. Climate change threats are “an emergency,” and he urged his audience of 225 to maintain their courage as they tackle climate change and adapt to life in an already damaged environment. “Mitigation and adaptation are dual imperatives.”

The 2018 Minnesota Water Resources conference opened with the presentation of the Dave Ford award to Suzanne Jiwani, a flood plain mapping engineer for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In her work at the DNR, Jiwani brings technical expertise and sound science to complex projects. Dave Ford was a mentor to her in her early days at the DNR, who told her “Make your decisions based on facts, recognize your assumptions and always go back to get more data.”

Ann Lewandowski and partners at the University of Wisconsin, Purdue University, and the North Central Region Water Network are developing training and support resources for users of the Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF). The resources are available at the new website: acpf4watersheds.org.

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