Commitment to Water Resources
Lakes and wetlands were historically an important source of food and fiber for Dakota people. The existing tribal waters provide Community members a link to their cultural heritage. The Community’s commitment to its water resources is evident in ordinances, water supply treatment, and water quality monitoring.
The Community ordinance pertaining to storm water states that the preferred treatment methods for storm water discharges are those that most closely approximate the natural drainage system. This has resulted in the created distributed ponds, vegetated swales, and created wetland areas. Furthermore, this also resulted in novel storm water approaches, like the two vegetated green roofs.
The Community water supply system will soon have a reverse osmosis system as part of the water treatment. This system reduces the need for residential and industrial water softening. In turn, this reduces the amount of salt put into the environment. Salt is an environmental toxin in freshwater systems. Reducing salt output benefits the Community’s resources and those downstream. This technology is readily transferable to other tribes and beyond.
Water Quality Monitoring
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community hydrologists assess water quality and levels in representative water bodies across the reservation. They regularly monitor two lakes, five streams, six wetlands, two storm water ponds, and the Maka Yusota (Boiling Springs) sacred site located near the Community. They also implement the Community’s Wellhead Protection Program to protect the area around the three Community public water supply wells using best management practices to reduce contamination of the wells.
Staff employ erosion control efforts to keep sediment from entering tribal water bodies. They review both residential and commercial plans, inspect sites, and review site development permit applications.
Hydrologists also maintain a weather station to collect atmospheric data. Rainfall, wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, solar radiation, and potential evapotranspiration (a combination of evaporation and transpiration) help determine water rate and volume monitoring. Data collected is useful in developing water budgets to monitor how much water, both storm water and groundwater, the Community currently has and how much is used. Since the nearest weather station is located 15 miles away, having a tribal weather station facilitates collection of weather data for long-term planning.
At seven sites across the reservation shallow aquifer monitoring gathers information to determine what proportion of the water in wetlands, streams, and lakes is contributed by groundwater. This data is helping define the behavior of groundwater on the reservation and is useful in problem solving and for future planning.
Bioretention areas, also called rain gardens, are built to collect and infiltrate rainwater that falls on impervious surfaces, such as parking lots and streets. Swales direct water to areas which contain deep-rooted plants and trees that can withstand being inundated with water for a few days and can also go without water during drought conditions.
Long Term Monitoring Program
The SMSC Land and Natural Resources Department has a long-term water-quality monitoring program for local lakes, streams, wetlands, and Maka Yusota (Boiling Springs), a nearby culturally significant site. The purpose is to monitor surface water bodies over time and determine if there are anthropogenic (human-made) pollution problems in which best management practices could be applied. In response to identified problems and implemented solutions, the Community has documented increases in local surface water quality. This improvement can be attributed to natural methods of storm water treatment, land restoration projects, and a reduction of Community salt-application associated with snow removal.
As the Community is located in Minnesota, which has a substantial amount of annual snowfall, this last point is rather significant. Furthermore, innovative approaches to storm water treatment such as green roofs and low impact development of residential land appear effective. The Community strives to maintain or restore the quality of its waters to pre-European settlement levels. This goal is difficult given the existing land use. The water quality standards set by the Community are more stringent than adjacent jurisdictions and benefit not only the Community but also those downstream as well. The Community also participates along with other tribes and the State in water quality discussions on the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of contaminants like mercury in Minnesota’s waters.
The Community’s values have become part of mutual projects like sharing management responsibility for a major storm water channel. Here, two local cities, the local watershed district, and the Community are working together under a Memorandum of Understanding on the mechanism, maintenance, and funding of a shared drainage channel.
Informing others about water quality issues has been important over the years. The Community has hosted salt applicator training courses, a pervious pavement class, and several rain garden classes open to the public.