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Water Quality

Lake Orono is an urban lake created by a dam at the end of a river. As such, it has a very large watershed, or area that affects its water flow and quality. The watershed consists of 70% of Sherburne County and 40% of Benton County; a ratio of watershed to lake of 1260:1.

Watershed Basic: Runoff

What is not absorbed by the soil or is left on high-runoff areas such as driveways, roofs, and decks runs off into streets and ditches. Storm sewers and ditches funnel the water to the river and/or lake. This water is untreated and carries debris and pollutants with it.

Lake Orono Water Quality Committee

In 1995, a joint committee composed of members representing the Lake Orono Improvement Association, the City of Elk River, and Sherburne County Soil and Water Conservation District was formed to address the sedimentation of Lake Orono. After successfully completing the lake dredging in 1998, this group decided to continue and address water quality issues.

About the LOWQC
LOWQC Annual Roles & Action Plan

Current concerns
2017 Annual Committee Report
May 2016 & May 2017 Lake Orono concerns map
Calendar of action items

NEW 3-19-19 Agenda


During the dredging process, research indicated that the lake is virtually free of contaminants such as PCBs, metals, etc. However, other issues also affect water quality. The main concerns we have identified are:


Buffer strip photo [52K] Volunteers plant a buffer strip on a lake association member's property to help filter pollutants


If you live on a body of water or county ditch, leave a buffer strip of natural vegetation along the water's edge. This has multiple effects; it will help:

One easy way to create a buffer strip is to keep an unmowed buffer of native plants and grasses that grow 20-30 inches tall in a strip ideally 20-30 feet wide. The best buffer is mature woodland with undisturbed grass and shrub layers.

Unsure as to the quality of your buffer? Please see DNR's Score Your Shore: a citizen shoreline description survey

There may be monies available to create a buffer strip. Contact the Sherburne Soil and Water Conservation District or the Sherburne County Extension Office for advice on construction and/or funding.

Buffer initiative. Governor Dayton has started an initiative where buffers would be mandatory. He has proposed that there be a 50 ft. buffer around all public waters and a 16.5 ft. buffer alongside public ditches. The Minnesota DNR is mapping the waters, and the Sherburne SWCD will provide guidance in our area. Please see the DNR's Buffer Mapping Project page with questions and answers about the initiative.

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