EarthEcho Water Challenge and Anoka County’s Watersheds

The EarthEcho Water Challenge is an international program that runs annually from March 22 (the United Nations World Water Day) through December and equips anyone to protect the water resources we depend on every day. The EarthEcho Water Challenge helps build public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local waterbodies.

It all starts by understanding the state of water quality in your community:

  1. Locate – Find out in which watershed that you live (see list below).
  2. Learn – Contact your watershed management organization to learn what it is doing to monitor and protect water quality.
  3. Test – You can contribute to local water quality information with a simple test kit.
  4. Share – Enter your data online into the international database and share your story and photos on social media using #AnokaCountyWaterResources. By doing so, you join a network of citizens from more than 120 countries, and become part of the solution for clean water and healthy waterways worldwide.
  5. Protect – Armed with your test results, you can use the information and resources available on this site to take action and protect the vital water resources in your community.

Protecting the quality of water in our local watersheds is a critical part of ensuring the overall health of the environment and our communities. Participating in the EarthEcho Water Challenge is a great way to be part of the solution to water issues worldwide.

Minnesota Lake & Stream Monitoring Program. To become a volunteer or learn more about the program, view the Citizen Science Program (MPCA YouTube; 3:46) or Volunteers Make Citizen Science Work (EPA YouTube; 2:12), visit the MPCA’s Citizen Water Monitoring web page, or call 651-296-6300.

Anoka County Watersheds. Watershed organizations and the Anoka Conservation District monitor water quality and implement protection measures that maintains water quality. Education and outreach programs (that includes water monitoring and grants for water monitoring) are available to residents, businesses, schools and property owners:

Rain + high heat brings algal blooms to lakes and ponds

When the summer sun shines and temperatures climb, conditions are ripe for ponds and 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 a toxic kind of 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 health effects, contact a medical professional. In addition, people are encouraged to report human health effects to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Foodborne Illness Hotline (monitors all disease outbreaks) at 1-877-366-3455. For health questions, citizens can contact MDH’s Acute Disease Investigation and Control group at 651-201-5414 or visit the MDH’s Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) web page.

Community 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 2017 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:

Floodplain maps go digital in Anoka County

No one can be certain where and when the next flood will happen. Floods can be devastating for Anoka County communities, homeowners and businesses. Determining and mapping the flood vulnerable areas is an important step in locating buildings, utilities, roads and flood controls to protect lives and property. Anoka County communities have teamed with state and federal flood professionals (hydrologists) to locate potential flooding areas through the updated FEMA’s Map Service Center (MSC). Now MSC provides greater functionality for users.

Anoka County floodplain maps are improved too, from paper to Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMS). The DFIRMS not only help communities to plan and prepare for the next flood, but help property owners determine if their home may be flooded based on analysis of the topography and hydrologic features. DFIRMS provide property owners with vital answers to whether they need insurance to protect them from losing all that they have built.

After entering an address in MSC-DFIRM – see link to make FIRMette and link to “Show All Products.”

New Features for DFIRMs:

  • Bigger detailed interactive map shows flood zones and data on either aerial or road background
  • Data layers from FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL) are updated daily
  • Dynamic Map” link – click on this to create a “FIRMette” (official copy of FEMA map)
  • Can zoom in and out on the interactive map
  • Find copies of any revalidation letters, Letters of Map Amendments, etc..
  • Uses aerial background that have colors and formatting most find easier to interpret

For More Information. See “Using FEMA’s Map Service Center for communities with DFIRMS” and other related information at the MNDNR Access Floodplain Maps site.

*Adapted from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources WaterTalk article by Ceil Strauss, MNDNR, State Floodplain Manager

Sprinkling restrictions are in effect

Irrigation - lawns, golf courses, and crops

The average person uses 80 to 100 (90) gallons of water per day (USGS data). For Anoka County that adds up to 30.8 million gallons a day or over 11 billion gallons per year.  The trick is to use water wisely so that our combined water demand doesn’t exceed our local water resources supply. During the summer months water use increases for lawn sprinkling. A homeowners water use in July can be six (6) times greater than January.

Residents and businesses throughout Anoka County should take note of city watering restrictions:

Lawn Watering Tips (from Don Taylor, University of Minnesota Extension Service Horticulturist): (1) Consider whether lawn irrigation is necessary in your situation; (2) Lawn irrigation would normally be minimal in spring until June; (3) Add 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water per week (minus any rainfall) during the summer months; (4) Keep the intervals between irrigations as long as possible; and (5) Water in early morning hours for greatest efficiency.

Contact your water utility for more information about water conservation, leak detection and water fixtures that conserve water.

Fish consumption guidelines

Anoka County is in the heart of the land of 10,000 lakes and some excellent fishing.  But how much do you know about the fish? Most fish in Minnesota are safe to eat.  All the fish in Anoka County lakes and rivers are safe to eat.  But, too much fish may not be healthy.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has new recommendations about how often to eat fish from certain Minnesota waters. MDH’s site-specific meal advice helps people limit exposure to contaminants like PCBs, mercury and PFOS by choosing fish lower in contaminants. MDH also offers more general statewide safe-eating guidelines for avoiding exposure to contaminants in fish from all sources. Information on fish contamination in local lakes and waters also can be found on the DNR LakeFinder web app.

Any fish (store-­‐bought or sport-­‐caught) could contain contaminants such as mercury that can harm human health especially the development of children and fetuses.  You can’t see, smell or taste the mercury in fish.  That’s why it is important to know what fish are safer than others.

For more information contact the Minnesota Department of Health Fish Consumption Advice website or call 651-201-5000.

Well water wise (3W) week (May 7-11, 2018)

The Anoka County Community Health and Environmental Services (CHES) Department, in cooperation with 15 municipalities and county agencies, is sponsoring the 19th annual Well Water Wise (3W) week promotion May 7-11, 2018 to encourage residents to check the safety of their private well water. For information on private well testing go to the Anoka County Environmental Services Well Water Testing webpage or call 763-324-4260.

County residents may pick up a well water test kit at participating city and township offices (listed below) or in the Environmental Services Unit, Suite 600 of the Anoka County Government Center, 2100 3rd Avenue in Anoka. Water samples can be submitted to the county’s Environmental Services Unit for analysis every Monday from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to noon.

During 3W week, samples can be submitted Monday through Thursday (8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.) and Friday (before noon). The well water testing kit includes details about water collection and submission. A laboratory fee of $30.00 will be charged for coliform bacteria and nitrate-nitrogen analysis.

Unlike public water utilities, private well water is not treated with chlorine to prevent bacteria growth. Simply looking at the appearance of drinking water is not a reliable indicator of whether it is safe to drink. An annual coliform bacteria test is a good way to ensure that your drinking water continues to be free of bacteria.

Nitrate-nitrogen occurs naturally in groundwater and wells at concentrations below one milligram per liter (mg/L). Nitrogen can seep into private wells from a variety of sources including septic systems, nitrogen fertilizers, animal feedlots, and landfills. The Minnesota Department of Health has established a Health Risk Limit (HRL) for nitrate-nitrogen at 10 mg/L. Levels above that point may pose an immediate risk to infants and pregnant women.

The testing of private wells used for drinking water is the responsibility of individual owners. There are an estimated 25,000 private wells in service throughout Anoka County. Only a small percentage of them are tested annually. For more information about well water testing, call the Environmental Services Unit at 763-324-4260.

Pick up a well water testing kit at participating communities and agencies:

Circle Pines wellhead protection plan nears completion

A Public Information Meeting was held by the Centennial Utilities Board of Commissioners at Circle Pines City Hall (Wednesday, April 18, 2018) where the updated Part 2 of the Circle Pines Wellhead Protection Plan was presented for public review and discussion.

Circle Pines is amending its Wellhead Protection Plan for its drinking water supply wells. The Minnesota Department of Health approved the amendment of Part 2 (of 2 parts) of the city’s plan. Part 2 includes information pertaining to:

  1. The inventory of potential contaminants of concern within the Drinking Water Supply Management Area (DWSMA);
  2. The data that was considered in this portion of the plan;
  3. Issues, problems and concerns within the DWSMA;
  4. Goals, objectives and action strategies to address issues of concern;
  5. A Plan evaluation strategy; and
  6. A contingency strategy in the event of water system disruption.

Centennial Utilities Chair Andy Dahl and John Greer (Barr Engineering) indicates Circle Pines Drinking Water Supply Management Area (DWSMA)

A copy of the draft Part 2 Plan is available to be viewed at City Hall. The public hearing permits the public to ask questions and to comment on the draft Part 2 Plan.

What is wellhead protection? Wellhead Protection is a way to prevent drinking water from becoming contaminated by managing potential sources of pollution in the area which supplies water to the City’s wells. Much can be done to prevent pollution, such as the wise use of land and chemicals. Public health is protected and the expense of treating polluted water or drilling a new well is avoided.

What is a wellhead protection area? A wellhead protection area is a zone around a public water supply well managed to keep pollutants from rapidly reaching the community’s water supply.  The area that is managed uses easily identifiable landmarks as boundaries (e.g. streets, property lines, ditches) called the Drinking Water Supply Management Area (DWSMA).  The wellhead protection area is based on the minimum time (ten years) for a pollutant to reach the well.

Who’s Impacted?
A wellhead protection area includes hundreds to thousands of properties. Residents and businesses within a wellhead protection area are asked to cooperate with your water supplier to effectively protect our water supply without establishing additional ordinances or regulatory programs.

Centennial Utilities provides the services of natural gas, water, sewer, garbage and recycling to Circle Pines customers and provides natural gas services to Lino Lakes and Blaine customers. Centennial Utilities derived from the “cooperative lifestyle” of the City of Circle Pines forefathers. Centennial Utilities was formed to provide the community with its own utility needs.  Centennial Utilities has a Board of five Commissioners who meet monthly on the third Wednesday of the month at 4 p.m.

For more information about Circle Pines Wellhead Protection program contact Patrick Antonen at (763) 231-2605.

Safe drinking water through wellhead protection

Anoka County residents get their drinking water from either public (municipal) supply wells or private (home) wells. The exception is Columbia Heights and Hilltop communities that get their drinking water from the Mississippi River, supplied by the Minneapolis Water Works. Municipal public water suppliers in Anoka County have established a unique partnership to protect the source of their  drinking water through collaborative implementation of their community wellhead protection plans. Public water suppliers must establish a wellhead protection program that meets federal and state drinking water protection requirements.

Drinking water supply wells must be located and maintained to prevent contamination of the water system. For private (home and cabin) wells the owner has to prevent water pollution from nearby and on property sources (i.e. septic systems, excessive use of lawn chemicals and accidental release of household hazardous chemicals/waste) from reaching their well. See the Well Owners Handbook for details. Private wells may pump 300 to 600 gallons a day. Public water supply wells pump 100,000 to 1,000,000 gallons a day drawing groundwater from a larger area.

Regular testing helps to ensure that the water is – and remains – safe to drink. However, testing sometimes finds contaminants reaching the well that can make the water unsafe to drink. When a contaminant is found the question usually asked: how did it get into the groundwater, the well and the drinking water supply system?

Wellhead protection goes beyond routinely monitoring the quality of water, to protecting the source (groundwater) from pollution. Protecting the source of a community’s drinking water is best achieved through the cooperation of the residents and property owners that drink the water. Public water suppliers are contacting property owners and providing guidance to prevent pollution of the groundwater (aquifer) source of their drinking water.

The Anoka County Municipal Wellhead Protection Group has developed a map application that displays the Drinking Water Supply Management Areas (DWSMA) in Anoka County. A DWSMA outlines a wellhead protection area that is readily identified by landmarks (e.g. property lines, roads, ditches, etc.). Residents and property owners can see if they are in a wellhead protection area. The public water supplier is able to see potential sources of water pollution and well construction reports and unsealing certificates by activating layers in the DWSMA map application.

The members of the Anoka County Municipal Wellhead Protection Group have established an efficient and cost effective cooperative program to protect the groundwater source of community drinking water systems through jointly implementing common elements of their wellhead protection plans.  The municipal members of the ACMWPG combined their resources and energy to establish the website.  Wellhead protection is a program to reduce the impacts of pollution on groundwater near public water supply wells.  The community members of the Municipal Wellhead Protection Group are Andover, Anoka, Blaine, Centerville, Circle Pines, Coon Rapids, Fridley, Lexington, Lino Lakes, Saint Francis and Spring Lake Park.

For more information on the protection of your drinking water contact your public water supplier’s Wellhead Protection Manager.

Anoka Conservation District – Update

The Anoka Conservation District (ACD) provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners to manage natural resources in a way that conserves and improves soil and water resources. When established in 1946, ACD largely worked with agricultural producers but has since evolved to serve the changing demographics of the county. With very little agriculture remaining, ACD provides assistance to landowners on all sized properties and local governments to plan and implement wise resource management strategies.

The guiding mission and policies of the district are established by a board of five elected supervisors and implemented by a staff that ranges from seven to nine full and part time employees (more information about the staff and board of supervisors can be found in their respective sections).

2017 Anoka Water Almanac

This report summarizes water resources management and monitoring work done as a cooperative effort between the Anoka Conservation District (ACD) and a watershed district or watershed management organization. It includes information about lakes, streams, wetlands, precipitation, groundwater, and water quality improvement projects. The results of this work are presented on a watershed basis—this document serves as an annual report to each of the watershed organizations that have helped fund the work.

Savvy About Stormwater – Video Contest

Winners announced. The Anoka Conservations District Stormwater Video Contest was open to Anoka County residents/students in grades 7-12 and college students 21 and under. ACD accepted videos submitted by Anoka County residents to qualify for the contest.

Katherine Lenaburg, with QCVT, interviewed the contestant winners and presented the winning videos .

Contact Emily Johnson with questions:

Example of a stormwater video (from Greenville South Carolina)

File for Anoka Conservation District Board of Supervisors

Two Supervisor districts are up for election District 2 (Andover and Coon Rapids) and District 3 (Columbia Heights, Coon Rapids, Fridley and Spring Lake Park). The vacancies to the Anoka Conservation District Board of Supervisors will be filled at the next election November 6, 2018.
The quality of natural resources play an important role in Anoka County’y quality of life and economic vitality. Citizens interested in leading the Conservation District’s management efforts are encouraged to run for Supervisor. Being a supervisor is an opportunity for you to become involved in the management your community’s natural resources.

Interested parties must file May 22nd through June 5, 2018. Candidates will appear on the ballot for the general election on November 6, 2018. The candidates must live in their nominating district. Anoka County Elections and Voter Registration (763-323-1300) accepts candidate filing.

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