Rivers, Streams & Lakes Monitoring

Water quality monitoring

River monitoring

Image of Mississippi River near downtown St. Paul, MNIn 1927, the Minnesota and Wisconsin Boards of Health declared the Mississippi River a public health hazard.  Raw sewage and other wastes were discharged directly into the river.  At that time, a predecessor agency to MCES began assessing the Mississippi River’s water quality.  Today, more than 150 river miles are monitored in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, via 22 long-term monitoring sites on 5 rivers: the Mississippi, Minnesota, St. Croix, Rum, and Vermillion Rivers.  These large rivers are monitored for a variety of physical, chemical, and biological variables, to document long-term changes in water quality and assess and characterize biological communities and riverbed sediments.

The four major components of the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) River Monitoring Program include:

View map of MCES river monitoring network (pdf)

See the 2013 River Water Quality Summary (pdf).

Stream monitoring

Image of a leaf floating in a clear streamThe Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES), with assistance from local partners, operates 22 long-term, automated stream monitoring stations in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area.  The stream monitoring program obtains both water quality and stream flow information, which is used to determine pollutant loading and characterize the condition of individual streams.  The long-term monitoring data are used by MCES and other agencies to determine the extent of non-point source pollution and to track water quality trends over time.  Biological monitoring of macroinvertebrates is also conducted at 14 of the 22 stream monitoring stations.
View map of MCES stream monitoring network (pdf)

See the 2013 Stream Water Quality Summary (pdf).

Lake monitoring

Image of waterfowl in a lakeMCES monitors lakes in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area to provide a comprehensive database that allows cities, counties, and watershed management organizations to better manage and protect these lakes. MCES has monitored Metropolitan Area lakes since 1980, and an even larger network of lakes is monitored with extensive volunteer help, via the MCES volunteer Citizen-Assisted Monitoring Program (CAMP).

See the 2012 Lake Water Quality Summary (pdf).

Wastewater treatment plant monitoring

Image of the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant outfallMCES monitors the quality of the treated wastewater that is discharged from its seven Twin Cities Metropolitan Area wastewater treatment plants.  Effluent toxicity-testing is conducted regularly to meet National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements, and to assess the quality of treated wastewater discharged into Metropolitan Area rivers.  Groundwater monitoring is also conducted at several wastewater treatment plants.

Special monitoring projects and studies

Special monitoring projects are conducted in support of water quality goals, often in cooperation with other interested agencies. Monitoring is also conducted in response to accidental wastewater spills or discharges that may affect surface waters in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area.

The Metropolitan Council led a cooperative effort to develop a water-quality model of the lower 40 miles of the Minnesota River. Five agencies joined the Council as sponsors, and many local stakeholders were involved. Enhanced monitoring and special field studies were conducted during 2004-2006. The model was developed and tested using extensive data from 1988 and 2001-2006, representing a wide range of river conditions. The Lower Minnesota River Model provides a tool for facility and watershed planning, load allocation studies, and water quality assessments.  For more detailed information, please see Project Highlights or the Project Summary Report.

Questions or comments about the LMRM? Please contact Hong Wang at 651.602.1079 or hong.wang@metc.state.mn.us.


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