What is Water Quality?

Water Quality is the condition of the water and it’s suitability for various uses such as drinking, swimming, fishing, and boating. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is the entity responsible for setting standards for water quality as well as creating plans for what should be done when a water body does not meet those standards. You can learn more at the MPCA’s website: How’s the water? 

Water Quality isn’t just the MPCA’s responsibility though! We all contribute to what happens to our water. If you are a shoreline owner, being ShoreSmart is one way you can help protect our waters.

Watershed Approach to Water Quality

The state of Minnesota has adopted a watershed approach to monitoring, protecting, improving, and restoring water quality. Over a ten year cycle, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) partners with local agencies including the North St. Louis SWCD through the Clean Water Fund to help provide monitoring, research, and outreach assistance by watershed. The MPCA categorizes the state into 80 watersheds. Our district contains 7 watersheds:

Please note, watersheds are also scaleable. This means that smaller, more local watersheds come together to compose each of of the above watersheds like puzzle pieces. Also, the above watersheds are part of larger watersheds called basin. For example, the Rainy-River Headwaters, Vermilion River, and Little Fork River, are all apart of the larger Rainy-Lake of the Woods Basin.

Currently the District provides field research and community outreach assistance for the Rainy River Headwaters, Vermilion River, Cloquet River, Little Fork, and St. Louis River Watersheds.

A report released in 2020, shows how conservation efforts have improved the Rainy River System. The Rainy River Headwaters, Vermilion River, St. Louis River, and Cloquet River Watersheds are currently in the One Watershed, One Plan watershed planning process.

The district hosts meetings and will meet with interested stakeholders to learn about, discuss, and share information about common water quality issues. We also work with stakeholders to identify projects to protect and restore water quality. 

Water Quality Monitoring

Staff collect data on water quality along with water samples which are sent to a lab for analysis. Common parameters include collecting data on water clarity, temperature, pH, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen in the field. Common tests for water samples include E. coli, Total Suspended Sediment, Phosphorus, Nitrogen, and Chlorophyll. he information collected is entered into MPCA’s EQuIS system and integrated into the MPCA’s Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) process. 

The water quality information is used to determine if water bodies meet state standards for designated uses such as drinking, swimming, and fishing. If a water body does not meet the state standards for its designated uses, it considered impaired. 

During the 2020 field season, our staff will be collecting water quality samples in the St. Louis River Watershed as a part of the intensive water monitoring part of the WRAPS cycles through a Surface Water Assessment Grant.

Citizen Lake Monitoring Program & Citizen Stream Monitoring Program

The Citizen Lake Monitoring Program (CLMP) and the Citizen Stream Monitoring Program are cooperative programs combining the technical resources of the MPCA and the volunteer efforts of Minnesota citizens who collect water-quality data on their lakes and streams. To find out the water quality condition of any lake or stream enrolled in the CLMP or CSMP, use the Search Form located at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/clmp.html

Water clarity data collected by lake and stream volunteers are used to better understand the condition of the state’s water resources, and to make decisions on restoration and protection.  Monitoring is quick and easy, and the MPCA provides equipment free of charge. No prior experience or training is necessary. To get started, submit an enrollment form:

Lake Enrollment Form

Stream Enrollment Form

North St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District

505 3rd St N, Ste A,
Virginia, MN 55792
Office Hours: 8:30 - 4 Monday-Friday and by appointment

Upcoming Board Meetings

Wednesday, June 12th at 10:30 a.m.
This meeting will be held in-person at the SWCD office. A link is available to join virtually by contacting Anita at least 2 hours prior to the meeting. The public is welcome to attend.

View Meeting Schedule »
Minnesota Clean Air and Water Legacy Amendment