One of our most important functions at the MWMO is to monitor and track changes in the water quality of the Mississippi River. Our monitoring team staff conduct regular, year-round sampling of both river water itself as well as the local stormdrain systems that discharge into the river. The data we collect provides a scientific basis for identifying and tracking water quality issues over time.
The MWMO’s monitoring efforts help inform public policy around water quality issues as well as prioritize the selection of projects to control pollution and improve water quality. In addition to water quality indicators, MWMO monitoring team staff occasionally aid in the collection of other scientific data such as macroinvertebrate sampling and bathymetric mapping.
How We Monitor Water Quality
At the MWMO, we monitor a 14-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that runs through the urban core of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. We also monitor water quality in the local stormdrain systems, and a small chain of wetlands called the Kasota Ponds. We collect samples and document the levels of 66 distinct “parameters of concern” — things like bacteria, heavy metals, nutrients and sediment — that affect water quality both here and downstream.
Our monitoring program began in 2005 with a single monitoring specialist. Today, we employ a team of full-time and seasonal staff with a varied arsenal of scientific tools and tactics. We’re implementing advanced technologies and software to track pollution levels over time, and using monitoring data to help develop comprehensive water quantity and quality models for our watershed.
The MWMO monitoring team works year-round, rain or shine (or freezing cold), gathering data that helps us answer that big question about the health of the river — as well as more specific ones like whether the water is safe for fishing and swimming. The information they provide helps planners and policymakers identify new ways to protect and improve water quality and habitat.