SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota River is the lowest it's been in 24 years, but there is an upside to the low water levels.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is able to take advantage of this summer's drought to test a nearly decade-long project.
Since 2004 waste water treatment plants along the Minnesota River have greatly reduced their phosphorous runoff. If phosphorous is high, it can cause low oxygen levels, which is a scenario not conducive to aquatic life.
"The flow in the river is really low," says Glenn Skuta, of the MPCA.
With low flow, Skuta says there's less water to hold that oxygen, and more fish in a smaller volume of water.
Skuta explains, "We're hoping that when we see these phosphorous reductions, we'll see higher oxygen levels because just like we need air to breathe, fish need air to breathe. It's just dissolved in the water rather than like when we breathe it from the air."
Equipment went into the water in early August. Results are expected by the end of the month, but preliminary data is promising, officials said.
"If we hadn't seen such good reductions from the waste water treatment plants over the years, we probably would not be seeing as good of oxygen levels," Skuta said.
Data collection will continue as long as water levels continue to drop. Ultimately a heavy rain will bring the study to an end.
A 20-mile stretch that runs about from Fort Snelling to Valley Fair is included in the study.