As the Water Drop Rolls


A Woodbury family enjoys ice cream during a summer celebration of new raingardens built near Colby Lake

This portion of As the Water Drop Rolls has been brought to you today by the East Metro Water Resource Education Program, a partnership of 18 local units of government working to keep your water clean.

We begin on a gloomy spring day, with rain falling steadily at the intersection of North Shore Trail and Hayward Ave.. As the water drops roll across the pavement, they stealthily snatch up bits of engine oil and phosphorus along the way, part of their secret plot to make nearby Forest Lake too dirty for swimming. Unbeknownst to them, the Comfort Lake – Forest Lake Watershed District and City of Forest Lake have laid a trap during the fall of 2012. Within minutes, the water drops fall helplessly into a filtration basin along the roadside and an iron enhanced sand filter quickly strips them of their pollutants. “Better luck next time,” chortles the basin as the clean water drops roll into the lake. In the coming year this basin will keep approximately 4.7 pounds of phosphorus out of Forest Lake.

Further down the road, Goose Lake in Scandia is squawking for help as an eroding hillside threatens to give her a dirt nap. A nearby homeowner hears her garbled cries and calls the Washington Conservation District for help. Soon the Carnelian-Marine-St. Croix Watershed District and Emmons and Olivier Resources arrive on scene as well. Working quickly, the team repairs a ravine to keep dirt from washing into the lake and digs a basin at the top of the hill to capture and clean rainwater as well. Goose Lake rests happily, knowing that she will no longer have to fight off 31,000 pounds of sediment and 24 pounds of phosphorus each year.  

Meanwhile, down in Stillwater, the local brown trout are getting a little bit frisky in the cleaner cooler water of Brown’s Creek. One day, after the Brown’s Creek Watershed District helped Stillwater Country Club and Oak Glen Golf Course to install new landscaping features that secretly trap nutrients and other pollutants, a groundskeeper at Oak Glen sees several baby fish alone in the creek. “Whose offspring are these?” the man calls out. Silently, the fish swim away, leaving the mystery unresolved.

On the other side of town, water drops are finding it harder and harder to smuggle phosphorus into Lily Lake due to the many raingardens built by Middle St. Croix Watershed District and the City of Stillwater. Local residents celebrate another string of victories in August by eating ice cream and touring the new raingardens.

Nearby in Lake Elmo, the City and the Valley Branch Watershed District are also working busily to capture dirty water drops before they infiltrate local lakes. “What will we eat now?” cry the gangs of algae that had hoped to expand their territories in Lake Elmo and the Tri Lakes. “With all these new roadside raingardens keeping nutrients out of the lakes, we’ll surely starve to death!”

Gangs of algae down in Woodbury echo these cries as well. “We need phosphorus to eat,” they plead. “If you’ll just give us a little more food, we promise not to turn Colby Lake green and steal all the oxygen from the fish next time.” Stone faced to the algae’s insincere blubbering, the South Washington Watershed District puts the finishing touches on 26 new curbside raingardens that will keep 12.16 pounds of phosphorus out of Colby Lake each year, enough to stop 6000 new pounds of algae from growing in the lake.

We end our year in North St. Paul, where it appears that the Casey Lake carp may finally be caput. Last winter, the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District drew down the lake, leaving the carp nowhere to hide, and during the spring, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released bass and bluegills into the lake to eat up the last remaining carp eggs. As December rolls in, Casey Lake breathes a sigh of relief when the City of North St. Paul installs an aeration system to provide the bluegills and bass with oxygen for the winter.

Will algae and carp retaliate against the local watershed districts? Will East Metro partners finally put an end to the water drops’ illegal phosphorus trade? Stay tuned to find out. This is Angie Hong, inviting you to join us again in 2014 for As the Water Drop Rolls.