U of M researches water quality impacts of boat wakes, big waves
Jeff Marr is the associate director of engineering and facilities at the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory at the University of Minnesota. He leads ongoing research by the University of Minnesota, St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, that looks at impacts of large boat waves on Minnesota lakes.
Wake surfing has become popular on Minnesota lakes.
Wake surf boats are powerful but slow-moving, and they create big enough waves to surf on without needing to hold a rope. It can feel like riding a big wave in the ocean.
What effect might these big waves have on shoreline or vegetation? That’s the question Jeff Marr will take up during the next Itasca Waters Practical Water Wisdom webinar series set for Thursday, May 4.
Marr joined Heidi Holtan on the KAXE Morning Show this week and talked about the university's research measuring waves and how they might stir up vegetation, sediment or even nesting birds.
Researchers in 2020 set up sensors on the lakeshore to measure how high the water is, 10-20 times per second. They measured the effects of many boats at different distances. This summer, they will go out again to learn more about the size of waves and how much force is applied when they crash into shorelines.
The researchers will grab water samples before, during and after the boats are on the lakes and see if vegetation, silt and sediment are suspended in the water.
“We’ll be able to actually say something with data about how big waves change water quality,” Marr said.
“We’re involved in this project because there’s a need for good data, data that can be trusted and that’s done to our standard here at the University of Minnesota.”Jeff Marr
People and lake associations are interested in the effects of wake surfing on lake quality. Marr said they hear from people pretty much every week.
“A lot of people can be confused thinking that the University of Minnesota is out against wake surf boats and that’s just not the case,” he said. “We’re involved in this project because there’s a need for good data, data that can be trusted and that’s done to our standard here at the University of Minnesota.”
The original research and the upcoming research this summer is crowdfunded, which Marr described as a fast way to get funding that’s a direct line between concerned citizens and research.
According to Marr, Minnesota recommends non-wake surfing boats be 100 feet from other boats. Wake boats, according to their research, should be 500 feet or more from other boats.
Learn more about Marr’s work and the research at the University of Minnesota on horsepower and wake boats at the upcoming Practical Water Wisdom free webinar series from Itasca Waters at noon Thursday, May 4.