Why Monitor?

The collection of  water quality data is one way to begin to quantify the physical, chemical and biological condition of lakes.  Over 1,000 Minnesota lakes have chosen to participate in our Volunteer Lakes Monitoring Program, and our staff train over 500 volunteers in lake sample collection annually.

Each lake is unique due to the many characteristics and variables that influence its makeup. The collection of water quality data is one way to begin to quantify the physical, chemical and biological condition of lakes. In 1993, Bruce Paakh of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency developed a monitoring program that was user friendly and provided citizen lake managers with the ability to characterize the fertility and resultant productivity of a lake. RMB Environmental Laboratories, Inc. has worked closely with the MPCA since 1995 to enhance the program following its goals and has increased participation to over 900 lakes throughout Minnesota. This lakes monitoring program involves the collection of total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a samples. Other observations such as Secchi disk, lake level, rainfall, and recreational suitability are also documented. Citizen volunteers collect water samples once a month from May through September and submit them to the lab. Following laboratory analysis,the collected data is electronically stored and tracked using this web-accessed database, so that users can view and assess the data.

“The 60 lakes in our Ottertail COLA have worked with RMB Lab for over 10 years to analyze our lake data.  They have been helpful and professional, answered all of our questions, providing training and setting up a website to house all of our results.  They’re fantastic!”
– Carolyn Herron, Environmental Affairs Officer, Ottertail C.O.L.A.

Goals of this program:

  1. Identify Trophic State Index (TSI) for participating lakes. Trophic state index (TSI) is a numerical value used to characterize lakes based upon their level of productivity/fertility.
  2. Develop the relationship between total phosphorus, chlorophyll-a, Secchi disk, TSI and user perceptions
  3. Develop database for trend analysis. Graphical and statistical interpretation of a lake’s health over time
  4. Develop database for predictive modeling capabilities. Predictive modeling is a process by which a database is used to describe mathematically the likelihood of impacts on water quality from future events, given a set of values for variables.
  5. Educate lake property owners about the fertility and productivity levels on the lake and use this information to promote stewardship on shoreline properties.
  6. Work with concerned citizens and the MPCA to monitor and identify lakes for the impaired waters list.