Governor kicks off ‘Year of Water Action’

We have a shared responsibility to protect Minnesota’s precious lakes, rivers, and streams for future generations. That starts with fostering an ethic of water conservation in our communities,” said Governor Dayton. “Throughout the next year, we must raise awareness of the challenges facing Minnesota’s waters and highlight ways that Minnesotans can take action.

Minnesota Year Of Water Action (20160801)Image

At Lake Itasca, where the Mississippi River begins its 2,350 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico, Gov. Mark Dayton kicked off a “Year of Water Action” in Minnesota urging businesses, farmers, outdoor enthusiasts, communities, and families to take action to conserve and improve water quality.

Throughout the next 12 months, Governor Dayton will visit school classrooms, water treatment facilities, research institutions, and farms to encourage Minnesotans to learn more about the challenges facing our waters, including:

  • Despite the state’s abundance of lakes, rivers, groundwater and streams, more than 40 percent of Minnesota’s waters are currently listed as impaired or polluted.
  • Damaging aquatic invasive species have infested more than 550 lakes statewide.
  • The water treatment plants and clean drinking water systems that make Minnesotans’ water safe to drink, cook with, and bathe in, are also in serious disrepair.
  • And initial testing that indicates 60 percent of the home/cabin wells in Central Minnesota may not provide safe drinking water.

Government plays an important role in protecting and conserving water quality. But it can’t do it alone. It’s up to Minnesota families and private industry to lead the way with most land privately-owned and private water usage comprising the majority of consumption in the state. Locally-led efforts of soil and water conservation districts, watershed districts, civic groups, and individual landowners are essential to protecting and conserving water quality.

Make a difference in your community by volunteering:

Waterspot Droplet

Waterspot on Smart Irrigation & Healthy Lawns

(UPDATE 8/21/2016) StarTribune report Study seeks best ways to curb surge in summer watering.

It doesn’t make sense to water the lawn during a rainstorm. And common sense tells us that sprinkling the lawn in the morning after an overnight storm is… well dumb and wasteful. If you water your lawn with a hose you probably know that. But, if you have an in-ground automatic irrigation system – does the system know that?

Smart Irrigation Controller

Smart Irrigation Controller

Homes and businesses use three times the water in the summer as winter – to keep lawns green. The University of Minnesota Extension Service – Lawns and Turfgrass Management Program has determined that water is often wasted on lawns. However, by understanding your grass plant, and sprinkling efficiently, you can conserve water and develop grass that is healthy and resistant to diseases and drought.

Many irrigation systems are controlled by a timer. A timed system will irrigate lawn and bushes whether it needs it or not. If the turf is overwatered it will runoff onto sidewalks, into street gutters and down storm sewers, wasted water.

Smart Irrigation.  Minnesota Law requires that all automatic operated irrigation systems have a controller that does not irrigate during rain or when the lawn has enough water.  Programmed and properly operating Smart Irrigation makes sense for the homeowners and property owners that want a great property, vibrant community and sustained local water resources.

WaterSense (logo)WaterSense (an EPA partnership program) seeks to protect the future of our water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products and services. WaterSense labeled irrigation controllers, act like a thermostat for your sprinkler system telling it when to turn on and off, use local weather and landscape conditions to tailor watering schedules to actual conditions on your property. Smart Irrigation controllers allow watering schedules to better match plants’ water needs. With proper installation, programming, and maintenance, Smart Irrigation controllers and systems irrigate turf and landscape efficiently while using local water resources in a sustainable way.

Smart Irrigation (broadcast sprinkler)The Irrigation Association is a national organization of irrigation companies and professionals that are dedicate to efficient irrigation and to long-term sustainability of water resources for future generations.

To see if your irrigation system is smart enough to meet Minnesota’s standards and is programmed properly to use water in a sustainable way, contact your local irrigation or landscape professional.

Too much watering caused the Kentucky Blue Grass to be replace by Yellow Nutsedge (weed) that loves soggy soil.

Over-watering can cause Yellow Nutsedge (noxious weed)  to replace Kentucky Blue Grass.

DNR Project WET (logo)

Water Festival Learning for the Classroom & National Art Challenge

Attention elementary and environmental educators. The Metro Area Children’s Water Festival is offering a special WET (Water Education for Teachers) workshop to provide teachers with the hands-on program of getting students “immersed” in water knowledge (KARE11 report). This indoor/outdoor workshop is designed for teachers, naturalists and other educators interested in the CWF curriculum and activities. Participants will develop and expand their lessons using the WET programmed materials and experienced presenters and water festival organizers.

  • When: August 2, 2016 (9am to 4pm)
  • Where: Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (2522 Marshall St NE, Mpls, MN 55418)
  • Who should participate: elementary teachers, education coordinators, 4H leaders, park naturalists, community education specialists, and non-formal educators.

The annual Metro Area Children’s Water Festival holds a lottery drawing in the spring to select 44 fourth-grade classes to participate. Sadly, many classes are not selected. This workshop will provide another opportunity for teachers and educators to prepare for the 2016 CWF or to deliver water lessons, facts and answers inside the classroom.

For more information see the Registration Announcement or call Madeline Seveland (Carver County Watershed Management Organization) at 952-361-1829. Certificate or 12 CEUs or 1 graduate college credit is provided to those who complete the training.

Wyland National Art Challenge “Water Is Life” Educational leaders and teachers are invited to take part in the 4th Annual Wyland National Art Challenge (Oct 1. -Dec 1). Sign up before Aug. 15 to win 1 of 100 free mural canvases for your classroom to participate in a nationwide environmental mural and individual art contest with the theme of conservation. To enter your class, simply fill out the form on the Wyland National Art Challenge website. Canvas winners will be announced on that site.

Wyland National Art Challenge

Waterspot Droplet

Waterspot on Anoka County Waste Management

With the growth of Twin Cities in the early 1900s, solid waste became a municipal concern. In many cases a “town dump” was established to bring order to the growing volume of residential waste that often posed a neighborhood sanitation and public health concern. “Burn barrels” were a way to reduce the volume of waste collecting in yards and hauled to the town dump.

After World War II, Anoka County communities experienced decades of rapid growth and a shift to disposable products. In 1973, Anoka County established a Solid Waste Management Ordinance. As a result, dumps were replaced by “sanitary landfills” regulated by Anoka County Environmental Services to reduce potential threats to human health and natural resources.

The growth of chemicals used in industrial processes created concern with hazardous wastes. In 1985 Anoka County established its Hazardous Waste Management Ordinance. Businesses and institutions are required to dispose of their hazardous wastes in a way that does not damage natural resources or pollute water.

In 1988 Anoka County established the Recycling and Resource Solutions Unit (originally Integrated Waste Management) to coordinate recycling and waste reduction with municipal and business partners. The trend from burying garbage to recycling and sustainable use continues:

For more information about recycling opportunities check out the Recycling and Disposal Directory or see the Residential Recycling Opportunities person in your community. For recycling answers call Anoka County Recycling & Resource Solution at 763-323-5790.

In the 1960s, a backyard "burn barrel" was used to reduce the volume of garbage collected at homes and waste hauled to the town dump.

The 1960s backyard “burn barrel.”

Water saving strategies for lawns

Irrigation - lawns, golf courses, and crops

Three times more water is used during the summer than in the winter, and much (often too much) is used outdoors watering lawns. Because you can sprinkle your lawn on odd or even days doesn’t mean that you should. Grass is a hearty plant that thrives with as little as one-half inch of rain each week in the summer. If you have an irrigation system or portable sprinklers, you can maintain a healthy lawn without wasting water:

1. Pay attention to the weather

During a Minnesota summer with may see heavy periods of rain followed by dry days. Adjust irrigation practices accordingly. Operate your irrigation controller in manual so that you are not adding water that is not needed and might drown the grass roots.

2. Select turf grasses that require less water and can tolerate drought. 

The Choice of grass species will impact irrigation requirements. Traditional turf grass species include Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, and tall fescue. The fescue species offer the best drought tolerance potential.

3. Adjust irrigation programs to conserve water 

To encourage rooting and drought tolerance, lawns should be irrigated infrequently (one time or less per week) with a sufficient volume of water (up to 0.5 inches). Set irrigation to sprinkle in the morning because daytime irrigation is lost by evaporation and wind deflection.

4. Use water saving technologies 

Rain sensors connected to irrigation controllers are vital to conserving water. There’s no need to water the lawn during a rainstorm. Conduct an irrigation audit of your system.

For more information see the Watering Practices webpage of the University of Minnesota Extension Service – Turfgrass Science Program.

Algae on downwind lake shore (MPCA photo)

Hot days cause algal blooms in lakes and ponds

When the summer sun shines and temperatures climb, conditions are ripe for Minnesota lakes to produce harmful algal blooms (HAB). Most algae are harmless, but under the right conditions, certain types of algae can pose health risks. People and animals may become sick if they come into contact with or ingest affected water. In extreme cases, dogs and other animals have died after exposure to lake water containing toxic blue-green algae.

High rainfall results in nutrient-rich runoff entering our lakes, which fuels algae growth. As sunlight increases and temperatures warm, we can anticipate blooms of blue-green algae on many of our lakes,” said Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) lakes expert Steve Heiskary.

There are many types of blue-green algae found everywhere, but thrive particularly in warm, shallow, nutrient-rich lakes and ponds. Often blown toward downwind shorelines, it is under these conditions that humans and animals come in contact with blue-green algae and where the risk of algal toxins is greatest.

Not all blue-green algae are toxic, and there is no visual way to predict whether a blue-green algal bloom contains toxins harmful to humans or animals. But harmful blooms are sometimes said to look like pea soup, green paint, or floating mats of scum, and they often have a bad odor. “You don’t have to be an expert to recognize an algae bloom that might be harmful,” Heiskary said. “If it looks bad and smells bad, don’t take a chance. Stay out, and keep children and pets away from the water until the bloom subsides.

For more information about harmful algae blooms see the MPCA Blue Green Algae fact sheet or call the MPCA at 651-296-6300.

If experiencing illness, contact a medical professional. In addition, people are encouraged to report human health effects to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Foodborne-Waterborne Illness Hotline at 1-877-366-3455. To learn more about how algae blooms affect health, visit the MDH’s Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) webpage.

U of M Turfgrass Program

Take the water survey

We need water to drink, flush, wash, and we need water to “water” our lawns and gardens. Some say we have all the water we need today, tomorrow and forever. Or do we?

The University of Minnesota Extension Service is surveying Twin Cities residents in the growing metropolitan area to learn about our water using habits. The results of the survey will help us understand how our attitude toward water may affect the sustainability of this valuable resource.

Survey participants are eligible to win a $50 VISA gift card.


For more information go to the Extension Service Watering Practices webpage or call Jonah Reyes (UofM Research Scientist, 651-260-4808,


Healthy Safe Swimming Week 2016

Make a healthy splash to share the fun, not the germs

May 23–29, 2016, the week before Memorial Day, marks the start of outdoor swimming and the annual Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. Swimming is one of the most popular sports activities in the United States. Pools, waterparks, hot tubs/spas, splash pads, and water playgrounds are great places to have fun, be active, or just relax. Have fun while you swim but know how to stay healthy and safe while enjoying the water!

The best way to prevent recreational water illnesses is to keep germs out of the water in the first place. Swimmers can protect themselves and others by following these six tips:

  • Don’t swallow pool or lake water.
  • Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea.
  • Take children on bathroom breaks or change diapers often.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom, not at poolside or beachside.

We are working closely with our licensed public pool operators to ensure the health and safety of swimmers,” said Angela Dabu, Environmental Health Specialist with Anoka County Environmental Services. “Swimmers can do their part by following the six tips to keep the water healthy on those hot and busy days at the pool.”

To report a suspected waterborne illness, call the Minnesota Department of Health’s Foodborne and Waterborne Illness Hotline at 1-877-FOODILL. Contact Anoka County Environmental Health – Licensed Pools & Spas (763-422-7063) to report a concern with a County licensed public pool.

Anoka County Municipal Wellhead Protection Program

Drinking water quality reports are available

Annual Water Report. Each year, community water suppliers prepare a report on the results of water quality tests of their water system in the previous year. The 2015 water quality reports summarize testing results for Jan 1 to December 31. The reports describe where the drinking water comes from and what’s in it. Groundwater, from wells, is the source of drinking water for community water suppliers in Anoka County (except Columbia Heights and Hilltop).

Municipal Wellhead Protection.  Community water suppliers are implementing wellhead protection programs to manage potential sources of soils and groundwater pollution near their wells.  Residents and businesses within a Drinking Water Supply Management Area (DWSMA) – near municipal wells – are in a unique position to protect the source of the community’s drinking water – the groundwater below. Find out if you are in a DWSMA by going to the Anoka County Wellhead Protection DWSMA map application.

Sealing Unused (Abandoned) Wells. Municipal wells are typically deep wells that use the natural protection of geologic layers to prevent pollution from reaching their community well. If old unused wells are near the municipal wells – pollution may pass through the natural protective layers down an unsealed well – contaminating the drinking water for the community. To learn more contact your municipal water utility department and view the Sealing Your Unused Well video (MDH, YouTube; 4:36)

Do you have a home well? Anoka County Environmental Services recommends that you test the safety of your drinking water annually. Go to the Well Water Testing webpage for more information.

Customers that want a copy of their water system’s annual report (normally published before July) may check the utility website or request a copy from their water supplier:

Clean.Drain.Dispose.Dry for our lakes and a vibrant outdoor economy

Protect our waters by following aquatic invasive species (AIS) standards

AIS media event, Mississippi, Hastings Access

CLEAN all visible aquatic plants, zebra mussels, and other prohibited invasive species from watercraft, trailers, and water-related equipment before leaving any water access or shoreland.

DRAIN water-related equipment (boat, ballast tanks, portable bait containers, motor) and drain bilge, live-well and bait-well by removing drain plugs before leaving a water access or shoreline property. Keep drain plugs out and water-draining devices open while transporting watercraft. Q&A – Boat draining, drain plugs, and bait container draining

DISPOSE of unwanted bait, including minnows, leeches, and worms, in the trash. It is illegal to release bait into a waterbody or release aquatic animals from one waterbody to another. If you want to keep your bait, you must refill the bait container with bottled or tap water.

Before moving to another waterbody: Spray, Rinse, Dry. Some invasive species are small and difficult to see. To remove or kill them, take one or more of the following precautions before moving to another waterbody, especially after leaving zebra mussel and spiny waterflea infested waters: Spray with high-pressure water, Rinse with very hot water, Dry for at least 5 days.

Anoka County’s AIS Coordinator and a crew of watercraft inspectors will work the waterways seven days a week through Labor Day. View the video (YouTube, Anoka County; 2:00) of watercraft inspectors and boaters working together to keep invasive species out of Anoka County lakes and rivers.


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