Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Q&A with Britta Suppes, Capitol Region Watershed District

Britta Suppes, Monitoring Coordinator,
Capital Region Watershed District

On Wednesday, July 20th, Campers went to St. Anthony Outfall to meet Britta Suppes and Joe Sellner from Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD). They told campers about how the whole subwatershed drains to this point on the river, including the storm drain campers are studying. They also demonstrated water quality testing and told campers about sources of stormwater pollution and how to prevent some of those sources.

I had a chance to ask Britta some questions about her work:

Q: What do you do for your job?

A: At CRWD, I serve as the Water Quality Monitoring Coordinator. In my position, I coordinate all aspects of our Monitoring, Research, and Maintenance program, including monitoring station management, equipment purchasing, data collection, data analysis, and reporting. Through our monitoring program, we actively monitor all District water resources (stormwater, lakes, and wetlands) and utilize the data to inform project design and overall management decisions for water quality improvement.

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: The most exciting thing about my job is that I get to enter storm tunnels to monitor stormwater flowing through them—it is both thrilling and interesting being in St. Paul’s underground! But I’d say the best part about my job is taking scientifically collected data and applying it to solve real-life water quality problems that show measureable results and improvements in water resources.

Q: What is your favorite thing about water?

A: My favorite thing about water is that it drives most every process on earth (aside from tectonic activity!)—our climate, our landscapes, our terrestrial ecosystems, and of course, all living things. Water is a necessity of life. I am particularly interested in watershed management because it is fascinating to think of all the pathways water can take from starting as a falling rain drop to eventually ending up in the ocean. Then to think about how land use, human activity, and natural processes and landscapes can influence that rain drop along the way, such as reduced water quality, an eroded hillside, or the formation of something incredible like the Grand Canyon.

Q: What is your favorite place on the Mississippi River?

A: My favorite place on the Mississippi River is right at the end of Pike Island at the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Minnesota River— I have visited here many times in both the summer and winter, and each time I am amazed thinking about these two very different water resources coming together. Both rivers come from contrasting landscapes, which is very apparent when you look at the color of the water. The Mississippi comes from the northern boreal forests and is mostly clear, and the Minnesota comes from the southern farm country and is brown and turbid. It looks like coffee meeting cream!

Q: What do you think people should know about water or that might surprise them about water?
A: A major source of pollution in Minnesota’s waters (lakes, streams, wetlands, and stormwater) is SALT! Salt (or Chloride) is used for de-icing roads in the winter months. Once salt-laden snow and ice melts in the spring, it runs off the streets into water bodies. Once that salt is dissolved in a lake or stream, it cannot be removed so concentrations in Minnesota water bodies are continuing to build up over time. Salt in fresh water systems can be very harmful to fish and plants that are used to salt-free environments. CRWD actively monitors chloride in the District in both lakes and stormwater in order to better understand the long term effects of chloride on water quality. 
 Thanks Britta and Joe for your time today and all the insights about stormwater!

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