Dry conditions are obvious in the area in a number of ways – from huge cracks in the fields to earlier dormancy of vegetation. Are area waterways at a point where the lack of moisture is a concern?
The significantly dry conditions have been revealed in the area in a number of ways – from huge cracks in the fields to earlier dormancy of vegetation.
One area which has noticeably changed because of the lack of moisture is in the area’s waterways, as is evident when one stops at or drives by a local river or county ditch. Are these area waterways at a point where the lack of moisture is a concern?
As is typically the case, the answer to that question varies from one river to another, as some are seriously low, while others are at the low level of normal and are teetering at the point of becoming a concern for river watchers.
According to Doug Goodrich, RCRCA executive director, the good news in the area is the Redwood and Cottonwood rivers are in the normal range.
“We’ve been a little luckier,” he said.
Goodrich said the rivers are at the low end of normal and are teetering on being be-low normal.
For Lucas Youngs-ma, a hydrologist for the DNR, rivers and other waterways have their level measures based on what he called the Q90.
The Q90 measures the amount of flow in a waterway in cubic feet per second, and as long as a river stays above 90 percent of normal flow things are doing well. The issue, said Youngsma, is when rivers go beyond that Q90 mark, and he said the Minnesota River in areas he has checked is currently at 38 cubic feet per second and the Q90 is 36.
When a river reaches that low flow, there are requirements en-acted, said Youngsma, such as halting permits for entities that might draw water from the river for their use, such as a golf course.
The problem with low flow is the threat it poses to the aquatic life in the river, said Goodrich, adding low flow also may lead to pooling water which then can lead to an in-crease in algae.
A low river can also pose a threat to groundwater, as those reservoirs are often recharged by rivers.
Goodrich said while there are certainly concerns, the good news is we have reached a time of the year when waterways begin to recharge, and part of the reason for that is due to the fact that vegetation has gone dormant and it is therefore not using as much water. However, he added, there is still a huge need for moisture in the months ahead.
Youngsma said the last several months have been a challenge for waterways, but he said a good amount of snow this winter could really go a long way to helping get the rivers in the higher ranges of normal. Yes, he admitted, he is hoping for good snowfall this year.
This is not the first time the rivers have been in the low range, said Youngsma, adding it has also been worse based on records, such as back in the 1930s.
Youngsma also said in recent years the water level in rivers has been on the high side, adding at times the low flow is just part of the whole process. How-ever, he added, he’ll be watching.