Clarity in BWCA Lakes – Water Quality in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Clarity in BWCA Lakes – Water Quality in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

The Boundary Waters is renowned for its outstanding water quality. As you can see below, the water in BWCA lakes tends to be beautifully clear, allowing you to see the lake bottom when standing in shallow water even a couple of feet deep.

BWCA lakes clear water

Over time, lakes generally acquire more nutrients as sediment and organic matter, such as leaves, naturally enters the water body.  This will happen more quickly in areas with deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves regularly, as opposed to coniferous trees that lose their needles less frequently), or with excessive nutrient run-off, such as fertilized lakeshore properties. These nutrients  (particularly phosphorus and nitrogen) promote the growth of algae; the algae in turn die and decompose, as organic things tend to do. This process of decomposition uses oxygen, which makes it less available to other organisms in the deeper water, such as fish. Visually, you will notice that over time the water becomes less clear and more cloudy, often green. This process is called eutrophication. Eutrophic conditions impair the drinkability of water.

In the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota, where water is relied on during camping and canoeing excursions, there is a volunteer BWCAW water quality monitoring program managed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. As you can imagine, through this program visitors to the BWCA volunteer to collect water samples from BWCA lakes while on their trips through the wilderness. Collecting this data is important because lakes in the BWCA are remote and not accessible by vehicle. If you would like to participate in the program, contact the MPCA at 800-657-3864. If available, a water quality testing kit will be sent to you for use during your trip.  Follow this link for more information on this program. 

468 ad

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *