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WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 19, 2012, 09:41 PM

Living with Water: How clean is the water we drink?

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- We continue, Living With Water, a Forum Communications project, in our print and broadcast divisions. For the last 20 years, there's been no shortage of water here, but just how good is that water that we drink?

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- We continue, Living With Water, a Forum Communications project, in our print and broadcast divisions. For the last 20 years, there's been no shortage of water here. But just how good is that water that we drink?

The high volumes of water we have seen the last two decades have had a huge affect on water quality.

Lance Yohe: "When there's a lot of water flushing off the land though the cities and off the streets the water quality impacts are horrendous."

All that water coming off the land increases the sediment in the river which is the largest water quality issue on the Red.

Jim Ziegler: "The Valley soil are so fine that they tend to stay suspended they don't settle out of the water column very much."

Those sediments can affect oxygen for fish and the increased sediments make it harder for water treatment plants to clean. Some scientist believe the sediments may increase the number of disease carrying organisms.

In the winter the water running under the ice actually turns clear because of the lack of runoff from fields.

The water coming off those fields also contains other things.

Jim Ziegler: "When water is sitting on the land it is taking up phosphorus for example, a nutrient that has a huge impact on water quality."

In the water both Phosphorous and Nitrogen can lead to algae problems but here the sediment in the river may be helping.

Jim Ziegler: "Because there's so much sediment in the water, light doesn't penetrate and so we don't get algae blooms."

However when this water arrives at our neighbors to the north, that when the phosphorous does become a problem.

Lance Yohe: "You can look at the websites of Lake Winnipeg in the summer for the last seven years you can see this blue lake all looking green from algae from satellites."

Projects along the Red in North Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba are underway to improve phosphorous levels in the water but another common goal may also help

So if we improve the flooding we'll improve water quality somewhat. But taming the Red and cleaning it will be a long term process.

Next weekend, we conclude our series with the long term flood outlook.

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