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.

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.

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.

What is a watershed?

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.

More information

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