Spring activities for increased water quality

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With spring wrapping up in a couple of weeks, wild flowers, ferns and leafy foliage once more grace the banks of many area lakes. The Great Blue Heron can be spotted again fishing along the shoreline or perhaps flying back to a rookery. The loons dive deeply, fishing and taking turns on their nest. Some ducklings and goslings have already hatched and are enjoying their aquatic meals as they grow to maturity.

It is a perfect time to consider how we can help keep our waters clean and healthy for not only the wildlife families but also our children and future generations.

Vegetation and trees filter the rainwater and help keep sediment, excess nutrients and pollutants out of the lakes and rivers. You can think of your driveway as your "shoreline" and consider what is washing down your driveway. It is not too late this spring to explore using a "no-mow" technique for a small part of your yard to see what comes up naturally and plant pollinator-friendly flowers, deep-rooted perennial plants and berry trees for the birds to augment/expand the area, for example. Add a rain garden to catch roof runoff or diverted driveway wash which keeps the filtered water on the land longer.

We all live in a watershed and our activities on the land can help keep our connected waters clean.

To measure water quality, over 30 of our area lakes took water samples this past May. This sampling and recording activity by citizen volunteers takes place monthly through September on the third Sunday/Monday of the month.

An opaque Secchi disk, typically white, named after its inventor, is used to determine the clarity of the water. The volunteer measures the depth at which the disk is no longer visible.

Water samples are collected from the water column 2 meters below the surface. The iced samples are stored in coolers and brought to a central collection point. A volunteer shuttle service then makes the delivery to the laboratory for timely analysis. Our Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations (HC COLA) partners in the water quality monitoring program are the volunteers, the participating lake associations, Charlie's Boats & Marine in Park Rapids and RMB Environmental Laboratories, Inc. in Detroit Lakes.

HC COLA is celebrating 20 years of valuable water quality monitoring. We thank all the past and present volunteer citizen water quality monitors who made this possible and invite you, our partners and the public to attend the HC COLA meeting on Thursday, June 29. At 6 p.m. we will have celebratory refreshments followed by a 6:30 p.m. presentation, entitled "The State of Hubbard COLA Lakes and How To Protect Them," by Moriya Rufer, aquatic ecologist at RMB Environmental Laboratories, Inc.

Rufer will cover the history of the county's lake monitoring, the current state of the water-quality in the county (using volunteer-collected data), what the highest priority threats are, and what residents can do about it. Residents will leave with a one-page summary of the talk with ideas for future projects and potential funding sources.

If you have questions about the water quality monitoring program that began for the 21st season this spring or to experience what occurs on a sampling expedition, please email us at hccolamn@gmail.com. The Park Rapids Enterprise lists our HC COLA meetings with educational speakers in its Upcoming Events section. Visit www.Hubbard COLAmn.org to learn more.