Form or join a local lake association or coalition of lake associations (COLA)
Your local lake association or coalition of lake associations can always use your help in preserving your Minnesota water heritage.
If there is no local group, please take the steps to form one. MN COLA has the expertise to support your efforts—just contact us to receive guidance.
Volunteer to help carry out MN COLA programs.
We need your help in making MN COLA programs fully effective. Make your application to volunteer your efforts in one or more of these MN COLA programs:
- Coordinate announcements of relevant meetings, conferences, and grant opportunities
- Coordinate notifications of legislative updates, agency policies and rules, and news reports.
- Serve as one of the speakers for “Get Smart” presentations on topics of crucial interest to riparian owners.
- Maintain the MN COLA repository of AIS materials and information.
- Assist in helping organize new lake associations, COLAs and other water protection districts.
- Utilize your occupational training and experience and serve on the MN COLA Proposal Advisory Panel which provides constructive criticism of water related grant or project proposals upon request of the authors.
Develop personal rapport with your state legislators.
MN COLA reaches about 40,000 of your fellow Minnesotans who believe that it is important to preserve, protect, and improve the waters and shorelands of the State of Minnesota. When you join this important voting bloc and then go the critical extra step of developing a personal rapport with your elected leaders, the combined influence of the group has the potential to improve policies impacting the state’s water.
Become acquainted with your legislators by inviting them to something as simple as a cup of coffee. Once rapport is established, introduce them to one or two of your concerns.
Here are the highest priority concerns of the MN COLA membership along with supporting rationale for each of those concerns.
Attend the local town hall meetings given by your legislators. You can establish name recognition by expressing your measured opinion.
Write to your legislators
Write or email your elected officials. When a face-to-face meeting is not possible, writing a concise letter is a powerful tool. Because your legislators receive many messages, consider addressing a single concern, limiting your remarks to one page, and being sure to thank them for their hard work.
Here is a link to find your personal state and federal legislators and their mail and email addresses.
Volunteer in the Citizen Water Monitoring Program
If you live near a lake or stream in Minnesota, or visit one regularly, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) needs your help. More than 1,400 Minnesotan volunteers measure the clarity of lakes and streams, collecting valuable data the MPCA uses to make decisions on watershed protection and restoration. For some lakes and streams, data collected by volunteers are the only data available, making this work indispensable.
Citizen Lake Monitoring Program (CLMP)
You can become a CLMP volunteer and collect water clarity data from a lake using a Secchi disk provided by the MPCA. It is an 8-inch, circular, all-white metal plate attached to a depth calibrated rope. Volunteers take readings at least twice a month during the summer by lowering their Secchi disk at a designated spot on a lake. Volunteers submit their readings to the CLMP at the end of each monitoring season. Read more and sign up here:
Become familiar with your watershed and watershed district
All water flowing into the streams or lakes has the potential of bringing with it a variety of unwanted and dangerous contaminants. These include but are not limited to AIS, sewage from man and animals, spilled or improperly disposed petroleum products, agriculture fertilizers and pesticides, and other hazardous substances to the lake and people using the lake. In addition, your activities influence the quality of water downstream from your location. It is therefore important that all Minnesotans become familiar with their local water drainage basin (called a watershed).
A watershed includes not only surface water—lakes, streams, reservoirs, and wetlands—but also all of the underlying ground water. Larger watersheds contain many smaller watersheds. All of the land that drains water to the outflow point is the watershed for that outflow location.
Minnesota has 80 major watersheds, and each is defined by rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. The DNR Watershed Locator map lists by name the 8 major basins and 81 major surface water watersheds in Minnesota (don’t look for #6, #45, or #64, they are not in Minnesota).
Additional information on individual watersheds can be found at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
The Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts (MAWD) membership includes about half of the watershed districts in the state. MAWD provides educational opportunities, information and training for watershed district managers and staff. Some, but not all, watersheds in Minnesota are served by local, special-purpose units of government that work to solve and prevent water-related problems. These watershed districts can be contacted if you have a concern:
Be a volunteer in your local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)
Local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) provide a unique opportunity for conservation within your county in that they target and prioritize conservation efforts on a local scale. Each SWCD receives funding from the local county government and from the State of Minnesota to assist in conservation efforts within their county. Many entities operate on a state-wide basis, but SWCDs have the opportunity to connect with residents and prioritize concerns that occur in your watershed, your county, your neighborhood, or even your backyard.
Have a conservation issue you would like to address? Contact your local SWCD — there is local expertise and potential cost-sharing resources available. SWCD staff work with agricultural landowners as well as those in the city to implement projects that filter water, preserve tree diversity, establish plants for pollinator species, address erosion, and manage animal manure.
Have an interest in being involved? Local SWCDs rely on the support of volunteers for a variety of activities. Sit on a Water Planning committee, prune trees in the park down the street from you, help monitor terrestrial or aquatic invasive species. Many SWCDs offer educational programs as well, so you can brush up on your knowledge of local issues such as pollinator habitats, stream health, groundwater conditions, etc.
You can find your county’s soil & water district offices at this interactive map.
Know your community
Property Owners Associations: Join! They need your involvement. Volunteer at the local, regional and/or statewide level.
Local Government: Go to Committee meetings and hear what’s being decided. Meet your local officials. Build relationships with them for “Citizen Engagement” purposes. Apply for citizen positions (advisory or leadership).
State Government: Go to Committee meetings and hear what’s being decided. Meet your elected officials. Build relationships with them for “Citizen Engagement” purposes. Apply for citizen positions (advisory or leadership).
Federal Government: Stay current with water related issues. Meet your elected officials. Build relationships with them for “Citizen Engagement” purposes.
Non-Profit Organizations: Join & donate to the ones that align closely with your values! They need your money.