Posted on Dec 01, 2020

EcoEducation:  MWMO: Storm Water System - It's a Watershed

We've heard from several organizations about efforts to protect the Twin Cities' major water feature: the Mississippi and why its protection is so important.  We've heard from the Audubon Society and learned about the Mississippi Flyway.  We learned how much of the plastic pollution in the Gulf of Mexico comes from the Mississippi.  We learned from advocacy groups like Friends of the Mississippi how the public can make a difference in the health of the river.   We learned how Wilderness Inquiry uses Canoemobile to make a first introduction to nature to inner city youth on many rivers including the Mississippi.  We learned about the spiritual practice of Nibi Walks from Sharon Day and her 62 day walk for the Mississippi.  We learned from FreshWater to appreciate our great water fortune that we enjoy as Minnesotans.   And now we have heard from the MWMO (Mississippi Watershed Management Organization) for the second time!  Read about our first interaction here.  While we didn't get to see their simply amazing learning center, we were treated to some more perspective on this completely 100% Urban and 100% developed watershed.   
What does a 100% developed watershed mean? -- storm drains!  A basic definition of a watershed is an area where any drop of precipitation will run to a common location. With all the hardscape of an urban area, the majority of precipitation results in run-off (55% compared with just 10% in a natural environment). This creates unique challenges. In the urban watershed managed by MWMO, all of this runoff is directed through the storm drain system under our feet and goes directly into the Mississippi River.  
Pollutants probably entered your mind and the MWMO is concerned with several:  sediment from construction sites,  nutrients from fertilizer runoff from yards, bacteria from animal waste (from pets and geese and the like), road salt used in the winter, and oil and gas from the transportation industry.
Principles of MWMO sponsored projects are slow down flow, reduce runoff, and filter pollutants.  They've done projects with cities in the watershed like creating vegetated swales as part of a traffic management project in Fridley and a huge storm water park on the U of M Campus which gathers the runoff from several surrounding buildings.  And the recent project right in the middle of the Mississippi - Hall's Island - creating habitat as well as a future area for human visitors.  Can't wait! 
Abby closed our meeting by sharing ways we all can be involved -- organizing community clean ups,  adopting storm drains, and becoming a Water Steward.  
Want to see some of the MWMO projects up close!   You don't have to wait for warm weather - go on a virtual bike tour.  We think a real bike tour is a great idea for a future summer outing with the EcoClub!