Feature Stories

Throughout Minnesota, cities struggle with the goal of reducing nutrient inputs to urban lakes. The nearly completed Prior Lake Street Sweeping Study took a new look at an old practice, examining the potential of enhanced street sweeping as a source reduction BMP. The study is unique in several aspects: (1) it examined the effect of both percentage tree canopy and sweeping frequency (once, twice, and four times per month); (2) sweeping was done from snowmelt through snowfall, and therefore included autumn leaf fall (most previous studies did not); (3) tree leaves were analyzed separately from the finer sediments; and (4) costs were computed for each of nearly 400 sweeping runs.

Historically, the spring issue of Minnegram covered the research projects receiving grants from the USGS as administered by the Water Resources Center (WRC). This year, due to budget uncertainties from the sequestration, as well as feedback from faculty regarding the proposal process, the WRC focused on supporting students working on existing WRC grants. The awards cover the salary portion of a twelve month Graduate Research Assistantship (RA).

Three principal investigators (PIs) and their USGS-funded projects were chosen to receive the student grants.

As water flows, so do pollutants, sometimes flowing freely over a surface and directly into a water body, or perhaps soaking deep into the groundwater, not to resurface until 50 years or more in the future. Thus, measurable results from efforts to curb nitrate levels in water bodies may also not be seen for years. Kronholm wants to encourage patience when waiting for positive results. “Flow paths determine the length of time from fertilizer application to introduction of excess fertilizer into a stream bed,” says Kronholm, who hopes that his research will create realistic expectations within the farming community and regulatory agencies. High nitrate levels that were years in the making will take years to abate. Kronholm, who was recently awarded the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, feels that farmers are often given a bad rap, when many farmers are trying BMPs voluntarily, often at their own expense. “Hopefully, my research will help scientists, legislators, famers and other stakeholders set realistic goals and expectations for reducing nitrate levels in our water.”

The Water Resources Center will host the annual conference at the St. Paul RiverCentre, October 14 and 15, 2014. Conference goers can expect a variety of new water resource solutions, management techniques, and current research about Minnesota’s water resources. Concurrent sessions throughout the day will offer information on engineering projects, best practices in design and application of water resource management methods, water policy and emerging issues. A morning plenary session begins each day of the conference, and luncheons will also feature a speaker. Topics this year include climate impacts on water resources, invasive common carp, and using LiDAR and spatial analysis.

Although she’s stepped down from the co-directorship of the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center (WRC), don’t expect Deb Swackhamer to fade away. She remains a University professor of science technology and environmental policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, a professor of environmental health sciences with the School of Public Health and leaves a legacy of water protection literally, on the books.

When John Bilotta set sail aboard the Nancy Foster on June 17 as part of NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Teacher at Sea project he was eager to apply his teaching mantra of “see, touch and smell” to his own education. “I spend so much time talking and teaching about the oceans that I was just excited to apply that philosophy to my own learning.”

For fifteen years, DNR MinnAqua supervisor Roland Sigurdson occupied an office cube at the Water Resources Center. A scan of his desk and walls reveals a life in balance. The displays are remarkably focused, reflecting his love of family, friends, fun, education and fishing. His wife Stacey and daughter Natalie beam from multiple photos, there are childhood pictures of Roland and his siblings on the farm, images of Roland the educator before groups of fascinated children, and lots and lots of fish.

In February, the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, in partnership with Explore Minnesota, released the “State of Sustainable Tourism in Minnesota: Changes from 2007 to 2013.” The study surveyed 3,550 Minnesota resort and tourism industry managers, owners and operators on sustainable practices ranging from energy efficiency to water conservation.

With one exception—sweeping large areas—there were no significant improvements by operators in the adoption of six sustainable water practices assessed across years.

While there’s been lot of talk about the health and environmental effects of genetically modified crops, there’s been relatively little attention paid to the environmental effects of glyphosate, a companion chemical that’s now the most widely used herbicide in the world.

Known to urban lawn warriors by its commercial name “Roundup,” glyphosate is routinely applied for weed control on an agricultural scale on genetically modified corn, soybeans, alfalfa, sugar beets, and cotton in the Midwest and elsewhere.

Pages