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Lakes are Impacted by EMPACT

People who plan to use two lakes near Minneapolis, Minnesota, only need turn on their computers to help them decide how deep to fish or when to swim. Water quality information from Lake Independence and Lake Minnetonka is now available on the Internet around the clock, rain or shine, every day between ice out and freeze-up.

Remote Underwater Sampling Station (RUSS) units placed in the lakes are gathering data as the result of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program referred to as EMPACT, or Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking. The EPA EMPACT program awarded $425,000 to the Lake Access partners last January; they were one of eight recipients out of 108 applicants to receive funding. The grant united Minnesota Sea Grant, the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), and the University of Minnesota Duluth Education Department with Hennepin Parks and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District in an effort to make lake data more publicly available.

RUSS units are composed of sensors that collect water quality data such as pH, temperature, turbidity, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen. This data is transmitted from the solar-powered RUSS units to the Web site: www.waterontheweb.org.

According to George Host, a research associate with NRRI and one of the project coordinators, making RUSS information easily accessible means that all Minnesotans “will be gaining access to a state-of-the-art technology that provides important information on the health of Minnesota lakes.”

Hennepin Parks Water Quality Manager John Barten said, “Judging from the interest I’m hearing people express about water quality in the West Metro region, Lake Access has great potential to convey relevant information. Lakes with poor water quality tend to lose oxygen much faster. You can see what happens to a lake when we let too many pollutants enter it. Opportunities to view lake conditions will reinforce common values about lakes and the general concern people have about protecting water quality.”

The Lake Access Web site is accessible but still under construction. Project coordinators are investigating ways to make RUSS data and lake information available, interesting, and usable to large numbers of people in the West Metro area through interactive kiosks and user-friendly software. If you would like more information or have ideas about the Lake Access project, please contact George Host at 218.720.4264 or by e-mail.

By Sea Grant Staff
February 2000

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