Nutrient reduction strategy

Agencies working to reduce nutrients in Minnesota's waters

Lakes in Minnesota

Agencies and stakeholders are working together in Minnesota to address excessive levels of nutrients – primarily phosphorus and nitrogen – to improve water quality at home and downstream.


Progress report. As we approach the halfway point toward our 2025 targets, we are taking a close look at progress toward the benchmarks in the 2014 state nutrient strategy. A report, expected by the end of 2019, will outline successes as well as shortcomings, and identify issues needing further attention.

PDF icon Developing a progress report for the Minnesota Nutrient Reduction Strategy (wq-s1-83)

cover of nutrient reduction strategy report

Nutrient reduction strategy

The Minnesota Nutrient Reduction Strategy will guide the state in reducing excess nutrients in waters so that in-state and downstream water quality goals are ultimately met. Fundamental elements of the NRS include: Clear goals, building on current efforts, prioritizing problems and solutions, supporting local planning and implementation, and improving tracking and accountability. Successful implementation of the NRS will require broad support, coordination, and collaboration among agencies, academia, local government, private industry, and citizens.

In Minnesota

Water is one of Minnesota's most abundant and precious resources. In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota's tourism and economy depend on healthy waters that provide recreational opportunities, safe drinking water, productive agriculture, healthy fish and wildlife habitat.

The goal is for our water to be fishable and swimmable for Minnesotans and those that come to visit. However, fishable and swimmable isn't always possible due to excessive levels of nutrients entering our waters from a variety of activities on the land.


Map of the United States showing water basins flowing into hypoxia area in the gulf of MexicoWhen we have nutrient problems here, they leave Minnesota's borders and flow downstream to people in other cities who need clean water, too.

Minnesota is home to headwaters for three major drainage basins including the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, and Lake Winnipeg. All are facing significant water quality issues, the most prominent being the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is facing extreme low dissolved oxygen leading to a condition known as hypoxia.

Each of the 12 states contributing to the hypoxic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico, and participating on the Hypoxia Task Force, have agreed to develop strategies by 2013.


Map of Minnesota showing watershed flows.

Multiple agencies in Minnesota are working together to develop Minnesota's Nutrient Reduction Strategy. This strategy will guide existing state-level programs to achieve additional reductions in nutrients within Minnesota water bodies by maximizing ongoing efforts. This will help to enhance the health of aquatic life in Minnesota water bodies, and increase the recreational potential of Minnesota waters. The strategy will also provide incremental benefits for the Gulf of Mexico hypoxia problem and other waters downstream of Minnesota.

The strategy theme, A Path to Progress in Achieving Healthy Waters, highlights a multi-faceted approach to nutrient reduction that will focus on the following:

Progress goals for downstream waters. The strategy process will develop meaningful and achievable nutrient loading reduction targets and interim milestones.

Progress on in-state nutrient criteria. The strategy will complement existing planning efforts to make progress toward meeting in-state nutrient criteria and provide protection to lakes and streams not yet assessed, or assessed as threatened or unimpaired by nutrients.

Prioritize and target watersheds. The strategy will help to prioritize watersheds relative to nutrient loads and impacts and target implementation activities to ensure efficient use of resources.

Build from existing efforts. Many ongoing efforts are moving the state in the right direction. The strategy will unify and organize information to align goals, identify the most promising strategies, and coordinate activities.

Lead to local implementation. The goal is for agencies and organizations to focus and adjust programs, policies, and monitoring efforts.

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Hypoxia means low oxygen and is primarily a problem for estuaries and coastal waters. Hypoxia can be caused by a variety of factors, including excess nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, and waterbody stratification due to saline or temperature gradients. These excess nutrients, eutrophication, promote algal growth. As dead algae decompose, oxygen is consumed in the process, resulting in low levels of oxygen in the water.

HTML icon Hypoxia Task Force meetings

The Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force holds public meetings throughout the Mississippi River Basin to inform the public of the progress toward moving forward on Gulf hypoxia.

A public review and comment period on the draft Nutrient Reduction Strategy was designated for Oct. 7 through Dec. 18, 2013. The draft strategy was available on this webpage, and discussed at six open house public meetings. A total of 86 written comments (letters and e-mail) were helpful and used to modify the strategy. The comments and responses are categorized by subject.