Snow studies and flooding, what gives?

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Snow isn't always thought of when we think of flooding, that is until spring rolls around. A new project coordinated by the National Weather Service and NDSU scientists is engaging citizens and students in flood research. This research is timely as the NWS has issued a preliminatry warning for a record fourth straight year of flooding for the spring of 2012.

Of course everyone understands that the more snow we have in the winter, the more water we'll have on the ground in spring. But it's not quite that straight forward. Snow falls have different percentages of water in them, thus the term 'wet snow' and 'dry snow.' This moisture content can actually be measured and its called 'snow water equivalency.' This is one of the parameters scientists are hoping to collect information on using volunteers.

Another factor in how much water stays on the land in spring is frost depth. Related to snow depth, frost depth can vary from zero frost in areas that are well insulated with snow and vegetation to several feet of frost. If the ground is frozen, very little water is going to infiltrate (sink in) into the soil in spring. Knowing where and how fast (infiltration rates) snow melt will be absorbed can help scientists understand spring runoff patterns, and perhaps, get a better grasp on flood patterns.

NDSU and River Watch are working with schools and individuals to set up monitoring sites for this upcoming winter. For more information on this project contact Wayne Goeken at

Cleaning Minnesota's water...

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Check out Minnesota Public Radio's new piece on 'Cleaning Minnesota's Water' through the Ground Level project. Water quality is not an issue that is going to go away anytime soon. The stories and local projects highlighted here show what's being done at the community and individual level. Do your part, stay informed and take a moment to browse their site at Cleaning Minnesota's Water

Measuring farm pollution, cleaning up rivers, using new technology and managing shorelines are just a few of the actions taking place across the state. This website is a window into the various activities Minnesotan's are involved in to create a sustainable and healthy water supply. Lots of resources and links too!

River Rendezvous!

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Water on the Web

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School started today across much of the Red River Valley. For educators looking to incorporate lessons about water into your curriculum a great place to start is Water on the Web! This website is most applicable to high school and college level students. Started by an NSF grant in 1997, the site has enough information and data to keep you busy for a full semester.

For teachers of younger grades, Project Wet and Minnesota's Aquatic Education Program - MinnAqua offer curriculum and activity guides for water education. Laura Bell is a Project Wet Facilitator and can be reached through the University of Minnesota Crookston if you have a group of teachers interested in a workshop. Nadine Meyer with the Minnesota DNR is the coordinator for the MinnAqua Program.

Hudson Bay Bound and our connection to water

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MissionMtns_web.jpgComing off a three day symposium on water and wild rice (Nibi and Manoomin: Bridging World Views Symposium) in Mahnomen on the White Earth Reservation, and reading the update on the two young women making their way from St. Paul, MN to Hudson Bay by canoe has centered my thoughts on women and water. In the Ojibwe traditional view, women are the caretakers of water. It is their responsibility to protect and take care of the water on this earth. Water is life giving, women are the bearers of new life.

In Mahnomen this week I had the privilege of being part of a traditional Ojibwe Water Ceremony, led by Josephine Mandamin, the grandmother who when asked "What will YOU do?" to protect our water answered with a journey that has taken her in a walk around all the Great Lakes and to each of the four bodies of salt water around North America (Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico). She is calling attention to our water, and the need to protect it for all peoples.

Water - we can't live without it, yet most of us rarely even think about it when we turn on a tap, or step into the shower. Do you know where your water comes from? Mine comes from a well in the backyard, but in the thirteen years we have lived here we have not tested it beyond the initial testing when it was dug. That is complacency. We expect that it won't change, and that for the most part, it will always be there. What would happen if your taps were turned off for a few weeks? If everyone's tap in your community was shut off?

Water gets our attention when it is contaminated, flooding our homes or washing away our soil. The grand displays of water are celebrated with national status (Niagra Falls, Yellowstone and Yosemite, Voyageurs National Park) and even local for us Minnesotan's in the case of Gooseberry State Park, Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and White Water State Park). We need a new approach to water - not just one that admires the grandness or focuses on problems, but one that recognizes the absolute need and essentialness (is that a word?) of clean water for life. Everyone should have the right to clean water.

Red River Water Levels and flood info at Fargo

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The Fargo Flood Homepage is provided in public service by North Dakota State University. This web site, in continuous operation since 1997, is focused on access to scientific, geographic, and historic information to assist the public in better understanding the nature of flooding in this region. The hydrographs and automated water level are courtesy of Nem Schlecht.

Great jumping off point with links, resources and flooding history of the Red River! Check it out!

A beginning...

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Just as all rivers have a beginning, so does this blog. Six months ago I was hired as a water resource educator with the University of Minnesota - Extension, but supported with funding from the International Water Institute and North Dakota Extension. My work area is the entire Red River Valley of the North, at least the part in the U.S. As most everyone in the Valley should know, the Red flows north, ending its run in the waters of Lake Winnipeg.

Water in the Red River Valley is not always welcomed. Flooding takes its toll. We will always flood, that I know. The Red River winds north, like a serpent across a vast, flat lake bottom. The Red River is a young river, still carving out its path. When the flow becomes too great to hold within its banks, the flat topography allows the river to spread out, in many directions. Only dikes, levees and roads create barriers to the rivers movement. At this stage, no one wants the extra water and the goal is to get rid of it, quickly and efficiently. But the water connects us...moving along, one week our worry, the next week another communities concern, down river. We are all communities connected by the Red River and I hope that this blog creates awareness, understanding and collaboration for celebrating life along the river.

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