Ecosystem Evaluation Program (E-Grade)

To promote greater understanding of the overall health of the watershed, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) is embarking on an Ecosystem Evaluation Program (E-Grade). The E-Grade Program, which is currently under development, will not only assess deep lakes, but assess shallow lakes, streams, wetlands, and uplands throughout the Minnehaha Creek watershed.

These landscape types will be evaluated for their performance of the following services to determine the overall health of the watershed:

  • Biodiversity
  • Habitat diversity
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Recreation
  • Flood control
  • Groundwater supply

The District’s current method of grading the health of its waters only gives us a partial snapshot of lake health by looking only at three factors: phosphorus, chlorophyll and water clarity. This does not consider other indicators of a healthy ecosystem, such as flood control and habitat diversity. Nor does it consider the interaction between lakes and other landscape types like streams or uplands. Although the current system assesses only lakes, it does not differentiate between deep and shallow lakes, which functions very differently.

MCWD will use the data collected under the E-Grade program to create a comprehensive report about the overall health of the watershed’s ecosystems. This information will allow the District to better identify areas in highest need of improvement or protection. This information will also build understanding of the function and health of the watershed. 

Additional types of data (e.g., fish, aquatic insects, wetland vegetation, etc) will be collected along with phosphorus, chlorophyll, and water clarity to examine the function and health of deep lakes, shallow lakes, streams, wetlands, and uplands in each of the District’s 11 subwatersheds. All the subwatersheds will be examined on a 10-year cycle, focusing on a group of subwatersheds every three years.  

Group 1Group 2Group 3
Minnehaha Creek      
Schutz Lake
Six Mile Marsh

Dutch Lake
Langdon Lake
Long Lake Creek
Painter Creek

Christmas Lake
Gleason Lake
Lake Minnetonka
Lake Virginia


Will you still be monitoring my lake when it is not in the focus group of subwatersheds? 
It depends on the lake. District staff will continue to monitor the major lakes that directly flow into Lake Minnetonka and Minnehaha Creek for standard parameters (phosphorus, chlorophyll, and water clarity). All other lakes will be monitored throughout the watershed on a subwatershed rotational basis. 

Will you still be releasing lake grades?
The plan is to phase out the current lake grade system. The District will continue to issue lake grades based on standard parameters through the first 10-year E-Grade cycle. 

Who else is involved?
The E-Grade program is being developed in union with a variety of agencies and technical experts, including the Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Metropolitan Council, Three Rivers Park District, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, and others. MCWD plans to publish two papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals, ensuring approval from the greater scientific community.