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MPCA lake volunteers needed

A woman uses a Secchi disk to measure water clarity. MPCA photo

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has 1,200 citizen volunteers who monitor lake water and river clarity weekly each summer throughout the state.

However, there are 12,000 lakes and 69,000 miles of rivers in the state. That leaves a huge need for a lot more volunteers.

Among the lakes where MPCA's website map shows a need for new volunteers are Woman and Pleasant in Cass County and Sibley and Pelican in Crow Wing County. The Gull River at the Cass-Crow Wing county line also needs a volunteer.

Cass and Crow Wing county residents and summer home owners have long participated in this program. Many lake associations have had one or two volunteers who go out on the lake weekly with a Secchi disk to check their lake clarity. However, some of these volunteers have aged out of the program or moved. Stream monitoring has never been as active as lake monitoring.

So, there is a need in Cass and Crow Wing counties for new volunteers to take their boat out on the lake or to drop a Secchi tube into a river from a bridge weekly. The MPCA describes the Secchi disk as a circular metal plate attached to a calibrated rope. In Minnesota, an all-white, 8-inch-diameter metal disk with notched sides for rope storage when the disk is not in use.

"It is probably the most inexpensive and easy to use tool in water quality monitoring," the MPCA reported on its website. "One of the best aspects of the Secchi disk is that the information provided by the Secchi disk is easily interpreted by volunteers and can be used to detect water quality trends in lakes."

The disk is named after Fr. Pietro Angelo Secchi, scientific adviser to the pope and astrophysicist. The MPCA noted Secchi was asked by Commander Cialdi, head of the Papal Navy, to measure the transparency in the Mediterranean Sea. The first disk was lowered from the papal yacht on April 20, 1865.

The MPCA provides the Secchi disks and tubes to do the monitoring and provides training.

Volunteers look for how deep the water remains clear, its color, river/stream flow rate and records visible changes in water level. To learn more about the program or to register to volunteer, visit the program's website at or call MPCA at 800-657- 3864.