Efforts to save water are making a difference

The Mississippi and Rum rivers, Coon Lake, Lake George, Rice Creek Chain of Lake, creeks, groundwater and wetlands are essential to life and our economic vitality. The quality of our natural waters is an asset that must be protected to ensure that our water supply is safe and plentiful in the future.

“We have had a tendency to take this abundance and cleanliness for granted. But this complacency could lead to our undoing. Minnesota’s population will grow—an estimated 22 percent larger by 2035—and that increased population will result in ever greater demands on our finite water supply and its quality…” (Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework, January 2011)

Some good news. A new study from the United States Geologic Survey (Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2015, June 2018) indicates water use across the country dropped between 2010 and 2015, despite that the population rose four (4) percent. Average water use by individuals continues to fall since the early 2000s from 88 gallons in 2010 to 82 gallons in 2015. Which means water efficient household fixtures are helping to conserve local water supplies.

Thermoelectric (e.g. nuclear and coal power plants) and agricultural irrigation are the dominant water use categories nationally. Thermoelectric power generation water use fell from a historic level by 18% since 2010. Irrigation withdrawals were two percent (2%) higher than in 2010. The biggest consumer of irrigation water was California. However, the county breakdown reveals variations that are significant to plan and manage local water resources.

Public water supply makes up over 92% of water use in the Anoka County. There are no thermoelectric power plants and agricultural irrigation use is much less within developing metropolitan regions. The Report comes with an interactive map showing visualizations of the data it contains to provide the public with new ways to see the information without diving too deep into the numbers.

SepticSmart Week

SepticSmart Week (September 17th through 21st, 2018). It isn’t difficult to maintain a septic system. Just like a wastewater treatment plant, homeowners have to maintain their system in good condition to keep it working right. All it takes is regular maintenance. During SepticSmart Week homeowners are reminded to pump their septic tank(s) every 2 years and protect their drain field from digging and damage by heavy vehicles and machinery.

One in five Anoka County homes have a well and septic on their property.  Maintaining a septic system is important because the sewage we put down the drain must be cleaned up before it gets into groundwater, wells and the water that we drink. Plus, a properly constructed and maintained septic system reduces pollution while recycling water back into our natural environment.

For most home and cabin wells, the nearest source of possible water pollution and dangerous bacteria is the septic system. Septic systems that are not maintained in good working order not only hurt the environment but risk your family’s health. Plus, you may be flushing thousands of dollars in repairs down the drain by damaging your septic system! Check out the Pumping and Maintenance of Septic Systems video (YouTube, 4:20).

Here’s a Winter tip. With cold/freezing weather, your septic system might freeze causing sewage backup in your home and discharge in your yard. Let your grass grow longer over the septic tank and drain-field that will insulate the soils and sewage distribution pipes from frost. For more information check out the factsheet Freezing Problems and Septic Systems.

SEPTIC CLASS. The Anoka County Extension Service is holding a Homeowner Education for Septic Systems workshop on October 22, 2018. Contact the Extension Service office at 763-755-1280 for more information.

WELL WATER TESTING. For information on testing the safety of your home well go to the Anoka County Environmental Services Well Water Testing webpage or call 763-422-7063.

SEPTIC REPAIR LOANS. Anoka County Community Development is offering Agricultural Best Management Practices Loans (AgBMP) to repair septic systems. Since 2014, Anoka County assisted property owners to repair or replacing failing wells or septic systems. The AgBMP program has provided residents with nearly $2M to correct water quality issues in Anoka County. Contact Community Development for more information at 763-323-5722.

4th graders: get your free pass to national parks

Parents, teachers, families, and children, explore together the millions of acres of national parks, historic structures, cultural artifacts, ancient forests, snow-capped mountains, and clear blue lakes. 4th graders and their families (or classrooms) get free access to hundreds of parks, lands and waters for the entire school year. To begin, access an Every Kid in a Park pass. The pass will give you free access to national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and more!

Fourth-grade teachers can also download activities and print Free National Park passes for each student. The passes are good through August 31, 2019. Get yours today and plan a trip! For information, please contact via email everykidinapark@ios.doi.gov or visit https://www.everykidinapark.gov/.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area extends 72 miles along the Mississippi River. Part of the park extends along the Anoka County border in Ramsey, Anoka, Coon Rapids and Fridley where there’s a dam and water treatment works draw water for people. You can learn about river ecosystems at several of the recreation area’s visitor centers, including an interpretive center in Minneapolis. A heron rookery lies just downstream. Across the river in St. Paul, the Mississippi River Visitor Center helps you explore the park and plan activities — from river walks and canoeing to biking and birding. In the winter, visitors often don snowshoes or cross-country skis to traverse river trails. Numerous points of interest lie just north and south of the Minneapolis area, including Hastings River Flats where a dam provides a perfect ecosystem for the eagles you can observe there.

Did you know: At Lake Itasca, where the Mississippi River begins, the river elevation is 1,475 feet above sea level. And is 841 feet at the Coon Rapids Dam. It drops to sea level at the Gulf of Mexico. More than half of that drop occurs within the state of Minnesota.

Voyageurs National Park – A little more than a half-day drive from the Twin Cities, Voyageurs National Park lies due north near the Canadian border. Voyageur is a French word meaning “traveler,” and pertains especially to those involved with the North American fur trade in the 1700s. Hardy men paddled large canoes on connecting lakes and rivers on a route stretching from northwest Canada to Montreal and through what is now the park. Water covers almost 40 percent of the park. The Rainy Lake Visitor Center features a film and exhibits detailing the area’s history and voyageur routes. Many visitors rent houseboats and explore wilderness areas punctuated by many islands. Hikers may choose from nine trails, from short loop walks to back country excursions. On your hike, you may see black bear and white-tailed deer, and in winter may spot fox and otter on frozen ponds. Visitors with additional time can visit Grand Portage National Monument, a park that marks the spot where voyageurs and Native Americans made a “grand portage” between Lake Superior and inland waterways. The park is northwest of Duluth on Lake Superior.

Home school opportunities expand for Anoka County students

Home school parents have more options to provide science and natural resources education programs for their children. The Anoka Country Parks and Recreation Department and the University of Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve are offering home school programs to provide parents with a monthly naturalist led education with topics to engage students.


Wargo Nature Center Home School Program

The Anoka County Parks and Recreation Home School Classes begins October 18th. Wargo Nature Center’s professional naturalists provide quality environmental, recreational and natural history programs. Program sessions are designed for the 1st through 12th grades.  For 1st and 2nd grade with separate sessions for 3rd through 5th and 6th through 12th grades.

Two-hours sessions will be held the third Thursday of the month (October through May).  There will be a morning session (10:00 to 12:00 p.m.) and a afternoon session (1:00 to 3:00 p.m.).  The program starts promptly so please come early.  Pre-registration and pre-payment of $5/student (plus tax) is required.  Space is limited so be sure to use the Youth Prgrams online registration and sign up for the season. Check out the Anoka County Parks 2018-19 Home School Brochure for more information or call the Wargo Nature Center at 651-429-8007.

Pre-school Forest Kids Club provides children ages 3-5 with opportunities to learn from a naturalist while exploring, adventuring, and learning. Wargo Nature Center naturalists will work with participants on their school-readiness skills (9:30 to 11:30 Wednesdays during the school year). If you are interested in learning more, or would like to register, visit www.anokacountyparks.com or contact Wargo Nature Center at 763-324-3350.


Cedar Creek ESR Home School Program

New this Fall! Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is thrilled to expand its high-quality education offerings to the homeschool community! Starting on September 13th, each month focuses on a specific topic studied by world-class researchers at Cedar Creek, providing the opportunity to go in depth into subjects of importance to the world, to the research community, and to society as a whole. Instruction is provided by Cedar Creek’s seasoned naturalists, and each session offers the opportunity to experience life as a scientist.

Science options are often limited for homeschool students once they reach middle school and high school grade levels. Why not come do science at Cedar Creek, where you have the opportunity to explore many different topics alongside professional scientists and their experiments? Homeschool programs for ages 12-18 are offered on the second Thursday of each month from 10am – 3pm.

You will spend time indoors and out, conducting hand-on investigations, meeting scientists, visiting long-term scientific experiments, and exploring nature. Come prepared to be outside in the dirt, regardless of the weather!

2018-2019 topics

  • September 13th:  Science of Climate Change
  • October 11th:       Forest Ecology and Tree ID
  • November 8th:     Wildlife Field Methods I
  • December 13th:   Art & Science
  • January 10th:      Geology of the Anoka Sandplain
  • February 14th:    Wildlife Field Methods II
  • March 14th:        Experimental Design and Inquiry
  • April 11th:           Phenology and Citizen Science
  • May 9th:             Ornithology/Birding
  • June 13th:          Dragonflies & Damselflies

Register for one or more classes. Students must be at least 12 years old to participate. Pre-registration is required, and we reserve the right to cancel classes with fewer than 5 students registered. Click here to complete an initial registration form! A staff member will contact you shortly with paperwork and payment information.

Fees. Classes are $18 per student per session, and must be paid in advance by check or cash. Parents do not need to attend the class with their student.

Planning Guide. Resources to help you and your students prepare for a successful visit. Handout for students and families.

Making organizations “lean” through efficient water use

Make water efficiency part of your organization’s lean mission to keep operating costs down as you grow. Make it a point of pride in conserving natural resources and protecting your water resources.

It’s smart business. The water meter bill is only part of the cost.  Metro area sewer fees are based on water use. Becoming water efficient reduces not only the water bill but the sewer bill too. Profitability comes from productivity, efficiency and management.

The following steps will lead you on a path to success in water conservation at your facility.

  • Conduct a water audit to measure water use in different areas of your facility.  Often the water use of specific operations is not known.
  • Develop a plan to deal with large or inefficient uses. It should be a simple, step-by-step guide outlining your specific goals and strategies.
  • Engage Employees in Water Conservation Awareness.
  • Implement a water conservation emphasis at your facility to educate and engage employees in water conservation. Employees may need to be shown how to use water efficiently and training should include information in on current water uses, water costs, and improvement strategies and brainstorming.
    • Create incentives for employees to help motivate them in identifying ways to reduce water use. Getting commitment from staff is essential.
    • To maintain momentum, gain management support and commitment.
    • Show short payback periods to help prove water efficiency to gain long-term savings.
  • Check out the water-focused technical publications WaterSense at Work and Lean and Water Toolkit with information on commercial and industrial process areas where water savings can most likely be realized.

The Anoka Conservation District provides Campus Groundwater Conservation Planning assistance to institutions and businesses in determining best practices in efficient water use at large facilities and properties (e.g. gold courses, office complex, etc.). For more information contact Mitch Haustein (763-434-2030 x15, mitch.haustein@anokaswcd.org)

Businesses and institutions that have completed water audits, reduced operating costs, and implemented efficient water use processes include:

  • Aveda, Blaine, MN. Goal: research ways to optimize water usages (Meghan Pieper). *This 2018 project summary is not yet available .
  • Kapstone Container Corp. Fridley, MN. Goal: research ways to reduce water, energy and waste (Ngan Tran). *This 2018 project summary is not yet available .
  • Anoka-Hennepin School District, Fridley, MN. Goal: Water conservation opportunities for irrigation systems and improved soil conditions and turf grass health; annual water reduction 4.8 million gallons (Taner Glaza).
  • Cemstone, Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, MN. Goal: Reduce fresh water from product production and truck washout and identify improvements to water reuse systems; annual cost reduction $322,542; annual water reduction 16.4 million gallons (Brent Vizanko).
  • ECO Finishing Fridley, MN. Goal: Researching water conservation opportunities in the electroplating process; annual cost reduction $93,395; annual water reduction 2.3 million gallons (Erik Anderson).
  • Federal Cartridge Anoka, MN. Goal: Researching multiple water conservation and recycling opportunities including single pass cooling applications and other metal-forming manufacturing steps that incorporate washing and rinsing; annual cost reduction $94,800; annual water reduction 5.56 million gallons (Kaylea Brase).

BUSINESS SPONSORS NEEDED. Consider sponsoring a Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) student intern for the 2019 summer semester to to grow and make your organization more efficient as you help America increase our supply of technical and engineering professionals that are always in demand.

It’s not too early to discuss your project ideas for the 2019 Intern program.  Apply Today or call Nathan Landwehr to start the process!

Become a Master Naturalist

There are a number of opportunities in our area to learn about the wonders of our natural resources by becoming a Minnesota Master Naturalist.

Who can become a Minnesota Master Naturalist volunteer? Any adult who is curious and enjoys learning about the natural world, shares that knowledge with others, and supports conservation. If you enjoy hiking, bird watching, following tracks, or identifying wildflowers, you’ll love being a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

The Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer training courses consists of in-classroom training and field trips. Course are designed to be a general overview of Minnesota’s three biomes: Big Woods, Big Rivers (BWBR); Prairies and Potholes (PP); North Woods, Great Lakes (NWGL); plus advanced training (ADV). The courses available in the Anoka County area include:

Scholarships Available. If the fee is a hardship, fill out the scholarship application and send it to Minnesota Master Naturalist.  For more information call the MMN office at 888-241-4532.

Why be a Minnesota Master Naturalist.  If you enjoy hiking, bird watching, following tracks, or identifying wildflowers, you’ll love being a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteers are a motivated group of fun and interesting people: teachers, retired professionals, nature guides, hunters, eco-tour operators, farmers, and…YOU!

Volunteer Service. Following the completion of the training course, Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteers will be expected to complete 40 hours of volunteer service per year to be considered an active Master Naturalist. Any time spent on the Capstone Project and any volunteer service hours completed after graduating from the training course may be counted towards the 40 hours. There are four basic areas of service:

  • Stewardship Projects—these projects would involve natural resource management activities such as invasive species removal or restoration projects.
  • Education/Interpretive Projects—these projects would be public presentations of natural resource information, educational materials development, or leading hikes.
  • Citizen Science Projects—these projects would focus on volunteers gathering data and returning it to researchers to support the research projects. Examples would include: Monarch larval monitoring, plant or animal counts, or water quality monitoring.
  • Program Support—these projects include working in a store or office of the Minnesota Master Naturalist or sponsor, or serving as a local chapter organizer.

Starry Trek: a search for starry stonewort | Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018

Join the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center (MAISRC) and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for a day searching for one of Minnesota’s newest aquatic invasive species, starry stonewort (and other AIS). Starry stonewort is an invasive algae that was first found in Lake Koronis in 2015 and has since spread to 11 Minnesota lakes. Now we are asking for your help in searching other lakes to better understand its distribution in Minnesota. You can learn more about starry stonewort here.

You will be teaming up with volunteers across the state as well as volunteers in Wisconsin participating in a sister event (AIS Snapshot Day) to help in the early detection of aquatic invasive species. During last year’s inaugural event, volunteers participating in Starry Trek discovered a new population of starry stonewort in Grand Lake (Stearns County). As a result of this discovery the local lake association and MN DNR teamed up in a rapid response plan to remove the small patch of starry stonewort. Rendezvous sites are located across the state and will be hosted by local agencies and organizations to search nearby locations.

The Anoka County rendezvous location is at Bunker Hills Activity Center (Andover). For more information contact Britta Dornfeld (Outreach Assistant, Coon Creek Watershed District, bdornfeld@cooncreekwd.org, 763-755-0975)

Participants will meet at the local rendezvous site in the morning and will be assigned sites to search upon arrival. All participants will need to return to the rendezvous site to check-in and turn in specimens and datasheets at the end of the day. Training will occur on-site when you arrive. No experience necessary! Participants under the age of 18 will need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Youth clubs (scouts, 4-H, etc.) can contact Megan Weber mmweber@umn.edu to learn how to participate as a club.

Register to register to participate at a location near you! You will receive an e-mail with additional details about your location.

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.

Four MnTAP intern projects to protect water resources are at Anoka County companies

MnTAP Intern Symposium

This year’s MnTAP Intern Symposium includes water conservation and pollution prevention projects at 4 companies in Anoka County. The Symposium features 15 projects at companies around the state. The interns will highlight the opportunities they have identified for saving water, energy, and waste during their 3-month internships. Groups of four interns will each present 10 minute summaries of their projects followed by a panel question and answer period. A poster session will also allow attendees time to learn more about each project.  Join them on August 16th at the McNamara Alumni Center, University of Minnesota.

2018 Intern Projects:

  • Aveda Corporation – Process water conservation and efficiency in the manufacture of personal care products, Blaine, MN
  • Carley Foundry – A project focused on energy efficiency at an aluminum foundry, Blaine, MN
  • KapStone Container Corporation – A project focused on process paper waste improvements and water reduction at a manufacturer of corrugated (cardboard) boxes, Fridley MN
  • Minnesota Correctional Facility – A project focused on developing recycling and organics recycling programs at Minnesota Correctional Facilities, Lino Lakes, MN
  • Advanced Web Technologies Labels & Packaging – A project focused on process waste and solvent use at a facility that produces high quality labels and flexible packaging, Minneapolis, MN
  • Center for Energy and Environment – Energy efficiency at small industrial facilities,Minneapolis, MN
  • City of Woodbury – Lead a project focused on water conservation through residential turf irrigation, Woodbury, MN
  • Lamb Weston RDO Frozen Foods – A project focused on water, energy and chemical use optimization at a potato product facility, Park Rapids, MN
  • North Memorial Health Hospital – A project focused on water conservation for a healthcare system’s two hospitals, Maple Grove Hospital
  • Phillips Community – A project focused on improving air quality in multi-family housing, Minneapolis, MN
  • Phillips Distilling – A project focused on wastewater and water reduction in a distillery, Princeton, MN
  • Science Museum of Minnesota – A project focused facility-wide water conservation and reuse at the Science Museum of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN
  • SensoryEffects – A project focused on heat recovery and water conservation at a food processor, Sleepy Eye, MN
  • Thomson Reuters – A project focused on water conservation at a book production facility, Eagan, MN

Tanner Glaza’s MnTAP 2016 project reduced annual water use of over 4.8 million gallons at the Anoka-Hennepin School District properties.

Become a Master Water Steward for your community’s water

All water is local. Water can  be found nearly everywhere around the world. But the water that’s in your community is the most important water in the world.

The Master Water Stewards program is a volunteer education and outreach program designed to equip citizens with the knowledge and skills needed to help improve water quality within a community.

Stewards are certified by participating in a broad training curriculum led by experts in the fields of hydrology, stormwater management, water policy, community-based social marketing, landscape assessment, and installation of clean water practices. Classes run from mid-October to mid-April each year but applications are accepted year round. Stewards are sponsored by their local water management organization or municipality and attend classes with a cohort of other prospective Stewards in their region. Participating partner organizations in Anoka County are the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and the Rice Creek Watershed District.

Map of impaired waters in Anoka County

At the end of the certification process, all Stewards complete a capstone project in community leadership and outreach. Stewards then become a point of knowledge and influence in their communities.

Master Water Stewards are volunteering their time for watershed districts and environmental groups, participating in city and local government boards, influencing policy, and changing the health of our waters.  The first Stewards have had dramatic impacts on the quality of their community’s local water resources (masterwaterstewards.org/by-the-numbers).

The Master Water Steward program was developed by Freshwater Society in 2013. Interested volunteers are encouraged to contact the Freshwater Society (masterwaterstewards.org/contact-us) for more information about the program.

Well water and your baby

Private well owners. You must maintain your well in good condition and check the quality of your water to know that it is safe to drink. The Anoka County Community Health and Environmental Services Department recommends that you test your private well water annually for Coliform bacteria and nitrate-nitrogen. Environmental Services Well Water Testing webpage.

Parents. Babies are at greater risk of harm from water contaminants. It is important to test the water that you use for drinking or preparing infant formula. Babies drink more water for their size than older children and adults. Babies’ developing brains and organs are more susceptible to injury and damage from harmful substances in drinking water.

Test your well water before or during pregnancy. Most well water in Anoka County is safe, but some well water has contaminants in it that can make babies sick or harm their development. We take extra steps to protect babies in our homes by installing safety latches on cabinets, covering unused electrical outlets, etc. Testing your private well is another easy step to make sure your baby has a healthy start.

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends testing for five contaminants in well water to give your baby a healthy start. Some of these contaminants can pass from mother to baby during pregnancy.

mg/L = milligram per liter (or parts per million). μg/L = microgram per liter (or parts per billion).

  • Coliform bacteria (test yearly). Coliform bacteria can indicate that other infectious bacteria, viruses, or parasites may be in your water. These may cause diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, nausea, headaches, fever, and fatigue. Infants and children are more likely to get sick or die from infectious diseases. Any level of coliform bacteria may be harmful.
  • Nitrate (test yearly). High levels of nitrate can affect how blood carries oxygen and can cause methemoglobinemia (also known as blue baby syndrome). Methemoglobinemia can cause skin to turn a blue color and can result in serious illness or death. Bottle-fed infants under six months old are at the highest risk of getting methemoglobinemia. A level is above 10 mg/L (measured as nitrate-nitrogen) in well water may be harmful
  • Lead (test at least once). Lead can damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous system. Lead can also slow development or cause learning, behavior, and hearing problems for children. Babies, children under 6 years old, and pregnant women are at the highest health risks from lead. Homes constructed before the lead ban for plumbing materials (in 1987) may result in lead that can leach into the water. Other sources of lead in the home (e.g. paint, tools, etc.) can also affect a child’s level of lead exposure (see lead poisoning prevention webpage). Any level of lead in drinking water may be harmful.
  • Manganese (test at least once). High levels of manganese can cause problems with memory, attention, and motor skills. It can also cause learning and behavior problems in infants and children. The water may be harmful for infants and children when the manganese level is above 100 μg/L.
  • Arsenic (test at least once). High levels of arsenic can contribute to reduced intelligence in children and increased risk of cancers in the bladder, lungs, and liver. Arsenic can also contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and skin problems. Any level of arsenic may be harmful. MDH highly recommends treating water with arsenic above 10 μg/L or finding an alternate source of water.

Anoka County provides well water testing services for the listed contaminants to residents. Check the Environmental Services Well Water Testing webpage or call 763-324-4260 to get a testing kit. Laboratory fees are collected when samples are submitted for analysis.

*Adapted from Well Water ands Your Baby (Minnesota Department of Health).

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