This could be a pivotal year for the Minnesota River and its tributaries. The MPCA is releasing new studies that emphasize the need for widespread changes to the Minnesota River Basin, which covers 10 million acres in southern Minnesota.
One study looked at sediment pollution (also called total suspended solids) clouding the water in the major portion of the Minnesota River. The study calls for decreasing sediment in the river by 50%. The Minnesota River Basin has erodible soils and is naturally vulnerable to sediment pollution. But some practices, such as artificial drainage, worsen the situation by bringing too much water, too quickly, into the system. Increasing flows are a major threat to water quality in the basin, accelerating riverbank erosion and threatening infrastructure. In the past 80 years, flow amounts have doubled in the Minnesota River.
The increased flow isn’t just due to increased rainfall; the river actually carries more water now per inch of rain than in previous decades. Increased artificial drainage, fewer wetlands to store water, and lack of perennial vegetation all contribute to higher flows and erosion of fields and streambanks.
The muddy water then makes it hard for fish and other aquatic species to breathe, find food, and reproduce. The sediment is also filling in the Lower Minnesota River and even Lake Pepin downstream at a much faster rate than before European settlement and intensive farming of the basin.
The MPCA studies also include three focused specifically on the Lower Minnesota River, Minnesota River-Mankato, and Watonwan River watersheds. The studies show many bodies of water that are not meeting water quality standards for bacteria, sediment, chloride, phosphorus, and nitrogen. The reports describe the strategies needed to restore and protect water quality in the watershed.
All of the studies were open for public comment from July 22 to September 20. The MPCA thanks everyone who submitted comments. The agency is now reviewing those comments, considering suggested changes to the study reports, and working on responses to all comments. All comments received and MPCA responses will be posted on this website when finalized.
- Summary: Minnesota River - Mankato WRAPS report (wq-ws4-53b)
- See the Minnesota River-Mankato Watershed page for the full WRAPS and TMDL reports
- Summary: Lower Minnesota River Watershed WRAPS (wq-ws4-55b)
- See the Lower Minnesota River Watershed page for the full WRAPS and TMDL reports
- Summary - Watonwan River Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy report (wq-ws4-62b)
- See the Watonwan River Watershed page for the full WRAPS and TMDL reports
- Summary - Minnesota River-Greater Blue Earth River Basin TMDL for TSS (wq-iw7-47a)
- See the Minnesota River and Greater Blue Earth River Basin page for the full TMDL report
Public input can make study and strategy reports better by providing additional information and ideas for implementing changes to reach water quality goals. The MPCA is now reviewing comments that were submitted and will post all comments and responses when finalized.
Learn about multiple Minnesota River basin studies and discuss how we can work to improve water quality at upcoming public events.
Many local partners are working to improve the lakes and streams in the Minnesota River Basin.