Water looks clear ... but not for long
People often ask me, "So, how is the water?" in the rivers and lakes of the Cannon River watershed.
If I was to answer that question today, I'd say it's great.
Last year's drought meant very little overland runoff carrying pollution to the water and with winter most of the moisture is locked up in snow and ice. If you've braved the cold and gone walking by the water lately, you'll have seen how clear it is.
Fast forward a month or so and the ice will be breaking up, the snow will be melting and quite probably we'll have some spring rain storms. All this water will turn our water the chocolate milk color we've come to associate with spring.
As the water moves over land, it picks up dirt and carries it to the water.
Most of our drinking water in this neck of the woods comes from deeper groundwater that is not immediately impacted by this spring phenomenon which is a good thing.
However, this muddy surface water makes it tougher for fish and plants to survive as well as reducing our enjoyment for paddling, fishing and swimming. It adds thousands of tons of soil to our water which is not where it belongs.
At this point it's too late to do much of anything for the spring.
But there are still things we can do to help going forward to "slow the flow" and increase the amount of water that sinks into the ground. Farmers can help by keeping cover on their fields over winter, using conservation tillage or trying out cover crops. Urban residents can plant rain gardens and use rain barrels to cut down on the amount of water leaving their land. Businesses and cities can cut down on impervious surfaces and insist on low-impact development practices when we build.
Our soil is a precious commodity that we need on the land and out of the water. It's time to stop treating it like dirt.
Keep an eye out this spring and see if you notice what I've been writing about, then think about what you could do to make one change to help fix this problem. As always, feel free to contact us at the Cannon River Watershed Partnership for help and ideas - www.crwp.net.