Farm Horizons, October 2012

Going with the flow: Crow River Organization of Water

By Starrla Cray

When it comes to enhancing bodies of water, the Crow River Organization of Water takes a streamlined approach.

Called CROW for short, the non-profit encompasses 55 cities, 1.8 million acres, and 830 lakes in its watershed.

“Improvement is ongoing,” Watershed Coordinator Diane Sander said. “Our water quality took quite a few years to get this way, so it’ll also take a while to improve.”

Fortunately, volunteers make that improvement process as quick as possible.

The citizen stream and lake monitoring program, for example, currently has about 40 volunteers.

The program is open to any group or individual willing to conduct a simple weekly assessment from April to October.

“We provide them with the equipment and training; we are always looking for additional volunteers,” Sander said.

As part of a statewide monitoring program through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the data collected indicates variations in water quality, and helps CROW staff prioritize areas for projects and research.

“It also gets people out to their lakes and rivers,” Sander said, explaining that the effort is a popular outdoor educational project for both children and adults.

Another well-liked volunteer activity is the yearly Crow River cleanup.

“We usually have about 250 volunteers for that alone,” Sander said.

The ninth-annual cleanup took place Sept. 15. In addition to the satisfaction of a job well done, helpers received a lunch and commemorative t-shirt.

Throughout its existence, CROW has assisted with numerous cost-share projects in the watershed.

“This year is the most cost-share dollars we’ve ever had, so that’s exciting,” Sander said.

Interested landowners can contact CROW to see if their project would be eligible for assistance. Past projects have included shoreline restoration, sediment basins, stream bank erosion control, rain gardens, and more.

The use of rain barrels is another way CROW encourages water-quality improvement. The barrels, which can be purchased from CROW for $50 each, are used to capture and store roof runoff. The stored water can later be used for flowers, landscaping, or lawn irrigation during dry periods.

The 54-gallon barrels not only help reduce people’s water bills, but also help the environment, because less water runs into storm drains and becomes contaminated. To order, call CROW at (763) 682-1933 ext. 122 or e-mail

The CROW also sponsors a yearly photo contest, with a $50-prize available in five categories. For 2012, submissions must be received by Monday, Nov. 19. Photos must be taken between Jan. 1, 2012 and Oct. 31, 2012 on the Crow River or one of its tributaries.

Categories include fishing, wildlife, scenic, active recreation, and humorous or unusual observation.

For more information, or for an entry form, go to and click on “outreach programs.”

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