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The Upper Mississippi River Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Study and Protection Plan describes the reduction in pollutant loading for 22 stream reaches (impaired for aquatic recreation due to E. coli) and protection efforts for 29 streams and river reaches. E. coli is used to indicate the potential presence of waterborne pathogens that can be harmful to human health.

The MPCA and Minnesota Department of Health are partnering to lead this project in close coordination with area land and watershed management organizations, cities and counties, and agencies to develop a TMDL report and implementation plan. The ultimate goal of this project is to protect and restore the water quality of the Upper Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Minnesota’s water quality standard for E. coli bacteria in streams is 126 organisms per 100 ml (milliliters) of water. Testing for pathogens in water bodies is difficult, so indicator organisms such as E. coli are used to indicate the likelihood that a river contains disease-causing pathogens. E. coli comes from human, livestock, pet, and wildlife waste. Bacteria can be transferred to water bodies from stormwater systems, areas with field-applied manure fertilizer or storage, non-compliant septic systems, connected water bodies, or feedlots. 

The process for developing the TMDL Study and Protection Plan consisted of evaluating the water quality problem, determining the sources of the pollutant, allocating pollutant loads to sources and areas, and implementation activities to protect and restore water quality.

Map and location

The majority of the TMDL Study and Protection Plan focuses on the Mississippi River Corridor from Royalton to Hastings and includes portions of three major watersheds (8-digit HUCs): Mississippi River-Sartell (07010201), Mississippi River-St. Cloud (07010203), and Mississippi River-Twin Cities (07010206).

TMDL report and implementation plan