Citizen-Assisted Monitoring Program (CAMP)

Engaging residents to address lake water quality issues
Man In Paddle Boat
The Citizen-Assisted Monitoring Program (CAMP) is a partnership to collect and analyze scientifically valid water-quality data from lakes in the seven-county Twin Cities area. Organizations and residents use the data to make better decisions about lake management.

Under CAMP, sponsor organizations recruit volunteers to track water quality in local lakes. Sponsor organizations include counties, cities, watershed districts, and other local governments.

Each volunteer monitors a specific site on a lake on a regular basis from mid-April through mid-October (every two weeks is most common). Volunteers collect a surface water sample, measure water temperature and clarity, and report weather and lake conditions.

With help from their sponsors, volunteers provide the data and samples to Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES). We analyze the samples, review and analyze data, assess and report on current lake conditions, and manage the CAMP program.

CAMP is part of the Met Council’s lake monitoring and assessment program.

Benefits to your organization

The Met Council and our partner organizations rely on this long-term water quality data to inform and document progress on local and regional water management plans. Enlisting residents to monitor water quality has many benefits. 
  • Volunteers are a cost-effective way to obtain scientifically valid data and build long-term water quality data sets. For example, these data can help your organization:
    • Document whether water quality is improving, degrading or staying the same over time.
    • Assess “before” and “after” lake water quality conditions in response to watershed best management practices and lake management projects.
    • Evaluate if a lake is meeting state eutrophication water quality standards, which is important if your organization is involved with the various phases of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process for a lake.  
  • Good data helps your organization make lake and watershed management decisions with more confidence given limited resources.
  • Volunteers become more aware of lake conditions, leading them to understand and support the lake protection and management activities of your organization.
  • Volunteers may become advocates for your organization’s broader efforts by:
    • Effectively communicating with their local government representatives as better-informed residents.
    • Spreading the word of their work and your organization’s efforts to their neighbors and social networks.
  • Council-produced lake reports make it easier for your organization to communicate with residents about local water quality.

Responsibilities of CAMP partners

Governmental organizations (called sponsors), citizen scientists (the volunteers) and the Met Council each have specific responsibilities in the collaboration.

  • Recruit volunteers to monitor lakes.
  • Provide a designated person to be the contact person for their volunteers and Council staff.
  • Pay an annual participation fee ─ see Annual Participation Fee and Other Costs, below.  
  • Ensure that their volunteer(s) participate in monitoring and Met Council-led training and follow CAMP methods and procedures.
  • Provide the Met Council and volunteers with needed lake information such as lake bathymetric maps and access locations.
  • Purchase monitoring kit(s) from the Met Council. A monitoring kit(s) purchase is typically a one-time purchase in which the sponsor becomes the owner of the kit. The monitoring kit(s) is then lent to the volunteer(s) during the monitoring season.
  • Maintain and store their own monitoring kits during the off-season and restock them with expendable items.  A monitoring kit also includes durable equipment that is used year after year.
  • Deliver and pick up the monitoring kits to and from their volunteers.
  • Provide a central storage location for their volunteers’ samples and lake monitoring forms until pick-up by Met Council staff. Sponsors will be responsible for picking up the samples and the lake monitoring forms from their volunteers and delivering those items to sponsor’s central storage location. The samples are required always to be frozen. The central storage location can be a Met Council facility.

  • Must attend Met Council-led training and commit to monitoring biweekly or monthly, mid-April through October.
  • Collect water samples, measure water clarity and temperature, observe weather, and provide their perception about the lake's physical and recreational conditions.
  • Supply their own boat or have access to a boat. The Met Council does not supply boats.
  • Keep their samples frozen at all times.
  • Sponsors, volunteers and the Met Council need to effectively communicate with each other. Volunteers are required to provide contact information including an email address.

How to volunteer for CAMP

If you are interested in becoming a CAMP volunteer, contact Brian Johnson via email at [email protected] or call him at 651-602-8743.

  • Organize the monitoring program.
  • Train volunteers to be effective monitors.
  • Pick up the samples and lake monitoring forms from the sponsor’s central storage location and deliver them to the MCES laboratory at approximately two-month intervals starting in June.
  • Analyze the water samples for total phosphorus, total Kjeldahl nitrogen and chlorophyll, and review the monitoring data.
  • Provide an assessment of current lake conditions to sponsors and volunteers.
  • Provide quality control by collecting lake samples from random lakes involved in the volunteer program. 
  • Provide and deliver to the sponsor the expendable monitoring items (e.g., sample containers, labels, filters, etc). The expendable monitoring items will be delivered in the weeks preceding the start of the monitoring season. The cost of the expendable monitoring items is included in the annual participation fee.

Annual Participation Fee and Other Costs

Annual Participation Fee Options for 2021

Quantity of Monitoring Events
Monitoring Interval
Fee (per lake site)
8 to 14
1 to 7
To encourage volunteer participation and sponsor engagement throughout the monitoring season, the participation fee will be billed for the agreed amount regardless of whether the volunteer collects samples from or monitors a lake site fewer times than the agreed quantity.

Monitoring Kit: $225 each.  Each kit includes the following:

  • 10-gallon plastic tote with a lid
  • Secchi disk with graduated rope
  • Sampling bottle
  • Digital thermometer with a spare battery
  • Water filtering equipment for algae collection
    • Filter holder
    • Hand pump
    • Graduated cylinder
    • Forceps
  • CAMP Monitoring Handbook
  • Lake map with monitoring site location
  • Ballpoint pen with permanent ink
  • Expendable Items for one monitoring season (sample containers, filters, monitoring forms, sample labels, monitoring schedule, plastic zip bags for storing samples)
  • Minnesota Department of Resources General Permit: Transport Water for Water Quality Sampling

How to get started

Contact Brian Johnson at [email protected] or 651-602-8743 to learn how to recruit volunteers in your community or if you are interested in becoming a CAMP volunteer.