Plans for a better future for the Rum River

Rum River Dam (City of Anoka)

The rum river at the Anoka City dam.

A pair of water quality studies are good news, bad news for the Rum River watershed that starts at Lake Mille Lacs and flows through Anoka County where it meets the Mississippi River in the City of Anoka. While most of river is in good shape, some waters are in trouble. Six streams have high bacteria or low dissolved oxygen levels, meaning they may not be fishable and swimmable at times. Ten lakes, mostly in the southern half of the watershed, have high levels of phosphorus that causes algal blooms.

Data, going back several years, shows that many pollutants in the river have decreased significantly, probably due to wastewater treatment improvements. However, nitrogen and chloride levels have increased. Nitrogen and chloride can be toxic to fish and other aquatic life. In addition, the river’s nutrient levels are close to being high enough to fail the water quality standard.

Water bodies in the northern part of the watershed, which is mostly forests and wetlands, are generally in great shape. As the Rum River flows south, the land is more developed and pollutant levels increase. This increase in pollutants with increase in development is a trend documented in the surrounding Upper Mississippi River basin.

The two reports by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and local partners include:

  • The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study, which establishes the amount of each pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards, and allocates reductions to different sources of pollutants.
  • The Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS), which identifies strategies for restoring and protecting water quality in the watershed.

Some recommended strategies for this watershed include protecting existing forestland, creating buffers in existing agricultural and developed areas, restoring wetlands that have been altered, discouraging additional drainage, promoting agricultural practices to reduce livestock waste in lakes and streams, and ensuring septic systems are working as intended throughout the watershed.

The reports are available on the Rum River watershed webpage. The Anoka Conservation District is leading the Rum River WRAPS project. For more information contact Jamie Schurbon at 763-434-2030 (x12).

Watershed approach videos. This four-part video series offers a great overview of our watershed approach to protecting and restoring our lakes, rivers, and wetlands.

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