Minnesota’s lakes are the best! For generations we have looked to our lakes for relaxation, recreation, and family memories. The thought of a weekend at the lake stirs up emotions many of us can’t put into words. Whether you are a regular at a resort, own a cabin or just like fishing or boating, you know the value of our lakes.
Lakes drive much of our economy in the north. We have not only some of the cleanest lakes in the state, but in the entire country! Our lakes and rivers are also the source of clean drinking water for many larger cities downstream.
Unfortunately, many of our waters are in danger to a host of threats. Due to over development and land use disturbances of all kinds our lakes are becoming inundated with storm water runoff. This runoff is filled with contaminants like phosphorus and nitrates that cause changes to our water quality and throw off the natural balance in our lakes and rivers.
Phosphorus is a nutrient found in manure, leaves, soil, and fertilizer. Under natural conditions phosphorus is typically scarce in water. Human activities, however, have resulted in excessive phosphorus loading into our lakes. Phosphorus triggers harmful algae blooms.
The good news: There are many simple conservation practices that can protect or even increase the water quality in our lakes!
The pressure many of our lakes see from recreational users can take a toll. As mobile as we are, (fishermen, boaters, paddle boarders, kayakers, etc...) we hop from lake-to-lake with ease. Aquatic invasive species (AIS) or non-native plants, animals and sometimes fish are finding ways to spread along with our movements. The easiest mode of transportation for AIS is unfortunately by interaction with us.
Storm water falls and begins to collect contaminants from the air, buildings, and yard space. Impervious surfaces like the roof of a building (A) or paved driveway/walkways, expedite the flow of storm water runoff. (Shown with white arrows.) Slowing runoff with a rain barrel (B) under a downspout not only catches excess water, but is a good source of extra water for gardens. Broken surfaces like stone or pebble walkways (C) allow water to better soak into the ground. Trees and native plants act as a sponge, soaking up storm water runoff. Strategically placed rain gardens with native flowers and plants are helpful for soaking up excess storm water runoff. The slope along a the building (D) in the graphic above would be a good location. People go to the lake to enjoy it. We understand the value of a sandy beach. But over development of shoreline and the elimination of all natural shoreline buffers reduces the ability of a lake to protect itself from contaminants. Removing shoreline vegetation in small amounts is often permissible, however, we strongly encourage leaving more than you remove. Maybe the removal of some vegetation at (E) is partnered with encouraged growth in other locations like (F) and (G). Natural shoreline buffers can be as simple as leaving a section of no-mow grasses along the lake, or in cases where shoreline damage has occurred, newer practices like the addition of Coir Logs can be used. A berm or shoreline ridge (H) is helpful in limiting direct rain runoff. Sometimes these ridges are created naturally from ice heaves in the spring. These buffers not only protect your property from erosion and wave action, but also provide habitat for fish, birds, and animals. Native shorelines are essential for the natural cycles that support our legendary Minnesota fisheries.