Paddlers Needed to Collect Water Clarity Data in the Boundary Waters

Taking a secchi disc depth reading. (MPCA photo)
Taking a secchi disc depth reading. (MPCA photo)

Boundary Waters visitors this summer can help state officials study the quality and clarity of water of lakes in the wilderness. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is seeking volunteers to take simple measurements on their trips.

“Since lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) are so difficult to access, they are rarely sampled by the MPCA or our local partners,” the agency stated. “Volunteer water monitors collect some for the only water quality data available on Boundary Waters lakes.”

Volunteers will simply pick up a kit with all the necessary tools from the MPCA before embarking on their trip. Then, when they arrive at a lake, they will collect rocks to weigh down the Secchi Disc – a standard tool for measuring how far one can see through water.

In the middle of the lake, research participants will lower the disc into the water and record the depth at which it disappears. The kits can then be mailed back to the MPCA for analysis of the data.

According to the MPCA, “Water transparency is a quick and easy measurement that tells scientists a lot about a lake’s water quality.” It indicates how much light penetrates a lake and the amount of suspended material in the water, which often is connected to how much algae is present.

By collecting the data over several years, volunteers help state scientists detect possible pollution early, making it easier and less expensive it is to restore the lake.

Interested individuals can contact the Citizen Lakes Monitoring Program Coordinator at 800-657-3864 or via email at clmp.pca@state.mn.us. More information is available on the MPCA website.

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