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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.

WatershedMonitoring year
Le Sueur River2018
Little Fork River2018
Mississippi River - Lake Pepin2018
Root River2018
Sauk River2018
Buffalo River2019
Cedar River2019
Chippewa River2019
Lower St. Croix River2019
Mississippi River - St. Cloud2019
Shell Rock River2019
St. Louis River2019
Upper Red River of the North2019
Upper Wapsipinicon River2019
Winnebago River2019
Big Fork River2020
Bois de Sioux River2020
Crow Wing River2020
Minnesota River - Yellow Medicine River/Hawk Creek2020
Mississippi River - La Crescent2020
Mississippi River - Twin Cities2020
Mississippi River - Winona2020
Mustinka River2020
Cannon River2022
Lake Superior - South2022
Little Sioux River2022
Long Prairie River2022
Lower Big Sioux River2022
Nemadji River2022
Red River of the North - Sand Hill River2022
Redeye River2022
Rock River2022
Thief River2022
Upper Big Sioux River2022
Lake of the Woods2023
Leech Lake River2023
Pine River2023
Red Lake River2023
South Fork Crow River2023
Zumbro River2023
Lake Superior - North2024
Lower Red River/Red River of the North - Tamarac River2024
Minnesota River - Mankato2024
Mississippi River - Headwaters2024
Rum River2024
Snake River - Red River Basin2024
Two Rivers2024
Watonwan River2024
Clearwater River2025
Des Moines River - Headwaters2025
East Fork Des Moines River2025
Lower Des Moines River2025
Lower Minnesota River2025
Rainy River - Headwaters2025
Red River of the North - Grand Marais Creek2023
Red River of the North - Marsh River2025
Upper/Lower Red Lake2025
Wild Rice River2025
Cloquet River2026
Lac qui Parle River2026
Minnesota River - Headwaters2026
Mississippi River - Grand Rapids2026
Mississippi River - Reno2026
Roseau River2026
Upper Iowa River2026
Vermilion River2026
Cottonwood River2027
Kettle River2027
Mississippi River - Brainerd2027
Mississippi River - Sartell2027
Otter Tail River2027
Redwood River2027
Upper St. Croix River2027
Blue Earth River2028
Lower Rainy River2028
North Fork Crow River2028
Pomme de Terre River2028
Rainy River - Rainy Lake2028
Rapid River2028
Snake River - St. Croix Basin2028

More information

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