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Minnesota has adopted a watershed-based management approach that promotes increased collaboration and a common vision for planning and implementation activities. This approach is not limited by county or other jurisdictional boundaries. Partnerships between state agencies, Tribes, local governments, and other stakeholders play a key role in successful resource management as they prioritize, target, and measure Clean Water Fund activities.

A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that drains off of it goes into the same place—a river, stream or lake. The smallest watersheds are the drainage areas for small streams and lakes. Think about your local creek or river. Where does it start? What type of landscape does it flow through? Where does it end up? All of the area covered is a watershed.

Each small watershed is part of the more extensive watershed for a larger stream or lake in the vicinity. These larger watersheds are, in turn, part of even larger drainage networks, and so on. The largest-scale watershed is called a basin. Minnesota has ten basins, some of which include portions of neighboring states or Canada.

Major watersheds are the largest watersheds within a basin. These are the drainage networks of the basin's largest rivers or lakes. There are 80 major watersheds in Minnesota. For each of these, MPCA works with other state agencies and local partners to identify water restoration and protection needs throughout the watershed and to determine how best to address them.

Monitoring watershed water quality

The MPCA and its partners systematically evaluate waters in each major watershed in Minnesota every 10 years. This process begins with comprehensive lake and stream water quality and biological monitoring. Once completed, the MPCA and its partners assess the monitoring data to determine if the water bodies meet state water quality standards.

The first round of watershed monitoring and assessment is complete, providing a baseline for determining where waters need protection and restoration. The Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) document uses the monitoring and modeling data, along with information from TMDL studies in the watershed, and develops ideas for local strategies needed on the ground to protect and restore waters. This informs local water planning and a One Watershed One Plan (1W1P) to target local implementation activities in order to see improvement in water quality. The MPCA is returning to watersheds to complete the second round of watershed-based lake and stream monitoring, which includes biological, fish contaminant, water quality, and pollutant load sampling. This monitoring is essential to measure progress in restoring and protecting lakes and streams.

Watershed monitoring schedule

The table and map below provide the schedule for recently completed and upcoming watershed-based lake and stream monitoring. The year found in the schedule is the year monitoring is taking place. The data gathered is released after monitoring is complete and is used to plan work in the watershed in the future. There may be other times that monitoring happens within the watershed as part of other reporting periods, projects or efforts.

Additionally, the monitoring will fill gaps to guide local planning and implementation efforts and track long-term changes in water quality and biological communities over time.

Watershed Monitoring year
Le Sueur River 2018
Little Fork River 2018
Mississippi River - Lake Pepin 2018
Root River 2018
Sauk River 2018
Buffalo River 2019
Cedar River 2019
Chippewa River 2019
Lower St. Croix River 2019
Mississippi River - St. Cloud 2019
Shell Rock River 2019
St. Louis River 2019
Upper Red River of the North 2019
Upper Wapsipinicon River 2019
Winnebago River 2019
Big Fork River 2020
Bois de Sioux River 2020
Crow Wing River 2020
Minnesota River - Yellow Medicine River/Hawk Creek 2020
Mississippi River - La Crescent 2020
Mississippi River - Twin Cities 2020
Mississippi River - Winona 2020
Mustinka River 2020
Cannon River 2022
Lake Superior - South 2022
Little Sioux River 2022
Long Prairie River 2022
Lower Big Sioux River 2022
Nemadji River 2022
Red River of the North - Sand Hill River 2022
Redeye River 2022
Rock River 2022
Thief River 2022
Upper Big Sioux River 2022
Lake of the Woods 2023
Leech Lake River 2023
Pine River 2023
Red Lake River 2023
South Fork Crow River 2023
Zumbro River 2023
Lake Superior - North 2024
Lower Red River/Red River of the North - Tamarac River 2024
Minnesota River - Mankato 2024
Mississippi River - Headwaters 2024
Rum River 2024
Snake River - Red River Basin 2024
Two Rivers 2024
Watonwan River 2024
Clearwater River 2025
Des Moines River - Headwaters 2025
East Fork Des Moines River 2025
Lower Des Moines River 2025
Lower Minnesota River 2025
Rainy River - Headwaters 2025
Red River of the North - Grand Marais Creek 2023
Red River of the North - Marsh River 2025
Upper/Lower Red Lake 2025
Wild Rice River 2025
Cloquet River 2026
Lac qui Parle River 2026
Minnesota River - Headwaters 2026
Mississippi River - Grand Rapids 2026
Mississippi River - Reno 2026
Roseau River 2026
Upper Iowa River 2026
Vermilion River 2026
Cottonwood River 2027
Kettle River 2027
Mississippi River - Brainerd 2027
Mississippi River - Sartell 2027
Otter Tail River 2027
Redwood River 2027
Upper St. Croix River 2027
Blue Earth River 2028
Lower Rainy River 2028
North Fork Crow River 2028
Pomme de Terre River 2028
Rainy River - Rainy Lake 2028
Rapid River 2028
Snake River - St. Croix Basin 2028

More information

Detailed information, data, procedures and more can be found on these pages: