Monitoring shows improved clarity on lakes

The Shell Rock River Watershed District assumed the water quality monitoring program from Freeborn County in 2004. The Watershed District has since expanded the program to include additional sites and water quality parameters. Water monitoring is important to gauge the health of local lakes and streams, identify waterbodies that need attention and provide a benchmark for measuring the success of watershed projects.

Beginning at ice-out, our lakes and streams are monitored twice a month for several water quality indicators, including phosphorus, chlorophyll-a and water transparency/clarity. Sampling ends in November before the ice-in season. This data is collected and analyzed throughout the year, then captured in our annual water monitoring report.

Also, tracked and measured are stream water quality and water flow. The SRRWD maintained 12 automated flow monitoring stations throughout the sampling year. Data collected at these stations is used to compute the total annual water volume and pollutant mass or pollutant load transported by each district stream. The automated stations measure water elevation at 15-minute intervals throughout the open-water season.

The district’s water monitoring program reveals that several district lakes, including Fountain Lake, have shown improved water clarity in recent years. When water clarity improves, rooted and floating aquatic plants receive more sunlight and can grow more densely. These plants provide desirable habitat for fish and for microscopic animals known as zooplankton that feed on algae, reinforcing the shift from an algal-dominated, murky lake to a clear-water lake.

In addition to being an important program to our internal success, the water monitoring program is a critical component to our permitting and funding progress. Grant providers and permitting agencies require that the Watershed District provide statistical data supporting our efforts. We are proud to have data on-hand highlighting the impact of our efforts over the past 12 years.

We encourage all community members to visit our website to view all of our annual water monitoring reports and to learn more about this important program in the district. You are also invited to join us at our monthly board meetings. Our next meeting is at 8:30 a.m. June 13 in the City Council Chambers. As always, please visit our website at or contact our office for more information about our efforts: 507-377-5785.

Brett Behnke is the administrator of the Shell Rock River Watershed District.

© 2015 Shell Rock River Watershed District, 305 S 1st Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007