Water Quality Monitoring

One of the most important functions at the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) is to monitor and track changes in the water quality of the Mississippi River and in the local stormwater drainage systems. MWMO monitoring team staff conduct regular, year-round sampling of both river water itself as well as the stormsewers that discharge into the river. The data collected provide a scientific basis for identifying and tracking water quality issues over time. This information is used to help guide public policies and projects designed to control pollution and improve water quality.

The MWMO monitors 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. Recently, the MWMO water quality monitoring team has also begun monitoring the effectiveness of selected stormwater best management practices (BMPs) installed throughout the MWMO watershed. Collected samples are analyzed for up to 66 distinct “parameters of concern” — things like bacteria, heavy metals, nutrients and sediment — that affect water quality both here and downstream.

MWMO’s monitoring program began in 2005 with a single monitoring specialist. Today, the MWMO employs a team of full-time and seasonal staff to continuously monitor water quality and quantity in our watershed. 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.

MWMO Monitoring Activities

Precipitation Monitoring

Precipitation determines surface runoff and is arguably the greatest factor contributing to surface water quality. The MWMO collects precipitation data from a variety of sources, including a local network of rain gauges.

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Stormwater Monitoring

The MWMO monitors water quantity and quality at several stormwater outfalls into the Mississippi River, as well as some upstream stormwater pipe sites. Monitoring stormwater is necessary to help us understand the effect that our watershed has on water quality in the Mississippi River.

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Bacteria Monitoring

The MWMO monitors E. coli bacteria content in the section of the Mississippi River that runs through MWMO’s jurisdiction as well as the stormdrain systems that feed into it. E. coli is monitored at seven locations on the river and at five stormwater outfalls.

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Mississippi River Monitoring

The MWMO collects water quality samples from the Mississippi River to help establish baseline water quality data that can be used for the management of the river. It also collects bathymetric mapping data north of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock.

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Lake Monitoring

There are three lakes within the MWMO watershed: Loring Pond in the City of Minneapolis; and Sullivan and Highland Lakes in the City of Columbia Heights. The lakes are monitored by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Anoka Conservation District, respectively.

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Wetland Monitoring

The MWMO routinely monitors three locations in the Kasota Ponds wetlands for water quality conditions. It also conducts biological monitoring in the three wetlands on a five-year schedule.

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Best Management Practice (BMP) Monitoring

The MWMO monitors selected stormwater best management practices (BMPs) installed at project sites in the MWMO watershed. These include BMPs installed at the St. Anthony Regional Stormwater Treatment and Research System and Thomas Edison High School.

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Annual Monitoring Reports

Beginning in 2005, MWMO staff have completed an annual monitoring report that summarizes the year’s monitoring activities and outlines the next year’s work plan. These reports are made available on MWMO’s website and are submitted to the Board of Water and Soil Resources. In 2018, much of the content from previous reports was made available on the MWMO website and a typical annual monitoring report was not completed. MWMO staff can provide monitoring data sets upon request.

2016 Annual Monitoring Report
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(PDF, 8 MB, 107 pages)

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2015 Annual Monitoring Report
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(PDF, 11.6 MB, 130 pages)

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2014 Annual Monitoring Report
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(PDF, 10.5 MB, 121 pages)

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Older reports are available upon request.