In 2018, the MPCA completed Minnesota's first comprehensive study of water quality and fish and insect communities in the Red River of the North from its headwaters near Breckenridge to the Canadian border. The study led to these primary conclusions:
- In places there is too much sediment to meet the standards designed to protect fish and other aquatic life. It makes it harder for many fish to find food, detect predators and reproduce in cloudy water. Some stretches are impaired for swimming due to high bacteria levels. Phosphorous levels are impacting downstream waters and nitrogen levels are increasing. Generally speaking, fish and aquatic insect communities are doing reasonably well, but decline as you go downstream.
- Solutions include: Implementing additional practices and projects that help reduce peak flows during spring runoff and heavy rains, and increase base flows during dry periods. Landowners, watershed districts and others having been working toward these goals but more is needed to keep our farmlands highly productive while at the same time improving and protecting water quality.
A new planning effort in northwest Minnesota takes a basin-wide approach to reducing the state's phosphorous contributions to the Red River, and to Canada's Lake Winnipeg.
Ten years worth of in-depth studies and reports done by the MPCA show common water quality problems in the Red River Basin. The key to solving these problems are partnerships at the local, regional, and international level.
MPCA evaluates water quality by measuring and monitoring the health of fish, macroinvertebrates and plants.
Images of the Red River and its tributaries, the agriculture near the river, the fish, ditches, and MPCA staff scientists doing monitoring work.
The Watershed Pollutant Load Monitoring Network is a long-term program designed to measure and compare pollutant load information from Minnesota’s rivers and streams and track water quality trends.
- A River Runs North: Managing an International River, second edition, by Jay A. Leitch and Gene Krenz, May 2013, for the Red River Basin Commission.
- Nutrient Reduction Strategy - Two-page summary
- Nitrogen in Minnesota Surface Waters
- Watershed Pollutant Load Monitoring Network
- Discovery Farms Minnesota
- Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture Red River Valley Water Management
Watersheds that feed the Red River of the North
These watersheds comprise all the land that drains water towards the river:
- Roseau River – reports available
- Two Rivers – reports available
- Lower Red / Tamarac – reports available
- Snake River – reports available
- Thief River – reports available
- Grand Marais Creek – reports available
- Red Lake River – reports available
- Upper & Lower Red Lakes
- Clearwater River
- Sand Hill River – reports available
- Marsh River
- Wild Rice River
- Buffalo River – reports available
- Upper Red River – reports available
- Otter Tail River
- Bois de Sioux River – reports available
- Mustinka River – reports available