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Endangered? The St. Croix River

A Case Study in Water Stewardship



Managing the St. Croix River has sparked tremendous controversy due to conflicting uses of the river. At risk is the water quality and aesthetic value of this National Scenic Riverway. The drama unfolding around the St. Croix River is used in this case study to illustrate water resource concepts and the difficulties that can arise when making decisions about natural resources.  Designed for a water resources course taken primarily by undergraduate juniors and seniors, the case could be used effectively in classes covering water quality, water policy, environmental policy, limnology, stream ecology, environmental studies or science, or environmental decision making.


  • To understand the importance of values in decision-making.
  • To understand key components of a decision-making model.
  • To experience dilemmas in water quality decision-making.
  • To apply aquatic ecological concepts in decision-making.
  • To understand and apply issues of scale (temporal and spatial) in water resource decision-making.


St. Croix River; National Scenic Riverway; water resources; water quality; environmental decision-making; invasive species; exotic species; zebra mussel; Dreissena polymorpha; biomonitoring; Minnesota; Wisconsin

Topical Areas

Policy issues, Regulatory issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues)



Subject Headings

Natural Resource Management  |   Environmental Science  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.