This project will provide a comprehensive and long-term assessment of water quality across a predominantly agricultural area in southeast Minnesota. In this project, researchers conduct monitoring at multiple scales to identify the amount and sources of runoff, sediment, and nutrient loss. Monitoring is conducted year round.

Ten monitoring stations were installed (9 in 2009 and one in 2018).

  • 3 in-stream stations (2,800-4,700 acres)
  • 4 edge-of field stations (17-95 acres)
  • 1 sub-surface drainage tile station (58 acres)
  • 1 intermittent stream station (1,975 acres)
  • 1 groundwater spring (springshed area of ~1,000 acres)

In-stream monitoring stations are located at the outlet of small watersheds and measure water from an area of 2,800 – 4,700 acres. In addition to in-stream monitoring, an additional 1-2 edge-of-field stations were established within each sub-watershed to characterize sediment and nutrient loss from agricultural fields that are representative of the region. Each edge-of-field station measures surface runoff from an area between 17 and 95 acres in size.

Significant differences in losses measured at these scales (edge-of-field vs. in-stream) will provide information about how and when sediment and nutrients are stored or assimilated on the landscape. It will also provide insight into non-agricultural contributions from forested ravines and streambanks.

The project is divided into three phases:

Phase I—Answer the question: “What is water quality like today under current climatic conditions and management practices?”

Phase II—Work with farmers and their advisors to build on existing conservation practices in the study watersheds.  Farmers and researchers will use data gathered throughout the baseline period (phase I) to identify which practices are best suited for their area and have the greatest potential to benefit water quality. Monitoring at multiple scales will continue throughout this phase.

Phase III- Evaluate long-term effectiveness of targeted practices and water quality trends.

For more information visit the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s website and read the Root River Field to Stream Partnership brochure.