RICE -- Your drinking water may be tasting better and be safer in the near future. A project team with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is taking a closer look at the Mississippi River- Sartell Watershed.

Project officials hosted an open house at the Lion's Club building in Rice tonight (Wednesday) to talk about their future plans for the watershed.

Beginning in May the MPCA will be assessing the conditions of rivers, streams and lakes that are apart of the watershed. The watershed covers parts of Benton, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Stearns and Todd counties. It also includes nearly 880 river miles and 232 lakes.

Teams will be looking at water clarity and nutrient concentrations of lakes to determine if they are safe for swimming and other water activities.

MPCA lead project manager Phil Votruba  says the goal is to improve the water quality in each stream, lake or river which in turn will provide better drinking water for nearby communities.

"We want to do the best we can for future generations, not just us here today but we want to have something for our kids, grand kids and we want them to be able to enjoy surface water resources." --Votruba

Researchers will be studying the water quality in each system by sampling fish, bugs and the water itself from each system.

MPCA lead biologist Tony Dingmann says by studying the fish and bugs that inhabit each body of water researchers can determine the water quality of the river, lake or stream.

"Only certain fish and certain bugs can live in certain water qualities, so if we find fish in one stream and not in another there might be a reason why they are missing in that one stream." --Dingmann

Research on the watershed will be completed by September.