The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a new online tool to help people understand the health of lakes across the state.
Data collected about water quality, hydrology, biology, geomorphology and connectivity is used to create a health score for individual lakes.
Health scores for 2,939 lakes are currently available and the agency plans to add more each year as additional data are collected, said DNR Watershed Assessment Coordinator Beth Knudsen.
The agency has been using data to create health scores for watersheds for several years, but Knudsen said staff realized they were missing an opportunity to provide data about lakes in a form people could use to make decisions about activities that affect lake health.
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
“Having the lake scored I think will help take a look at these different systems so that we understand them a little better and apply the right solution in the right place by bringing this information together in one place,” said Knudsen.
Broader watershed health data is also available so people can zoom out from an individual lake.
“What is your chain of lakes? Who is upstream of you and what are their health scores looking like?” she said.
Knudsen has been getting numerous questions since the Watershed Health Assessment Framework for Lakes tool was unveiled a few weeks ago. Many inquiries are from lake association members asking for a more detailed explanation of the data about the lake where they live.
“And I love those kinds of questions. It shows that people are engaged and curious and that's exactly what we need," said Knudsen. “It takes a lot to understand and care for and steward a lake. And we're just trying to make more data available to those people that are striving to care for these important bodies of water.”
While the data is used by professionals who manage natural resources, Knudsen said it can also help inform land use decisions by local policy makers and lakeshore property owners.
“Those local landowners are taking ownership of that message and they're making a difference. You know, the ones that are looking at how they landscape near water and talking to their officials about development in the area. All those things do make a difference to lake health,” she said.