Surface water

square-lake-with MPCA monitoring crew

Surface water defines Minnesota. The land of 10,000 lakes actually has about 12,000 lakes—and more than 104,000 miles of streams and about 9.3 million acres of wetlands. The task of managing and protecting these critical economic and aesthetic resources is shared among numerous government organizations at the state, local, and federal levels. Many non-governmental organizations and countless individual citizens also play vital roles.

Within this broad partnership, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has the primary responsibility for protecting surface waters from pollution by chemicals, microorganisms, or other substances that degrade water quality.

The MPCA does this by:

  • Monitoring and assessing the water quality of lakes, rivers, and streams throughout the state, and developing strategies to guide local restoration and protection projects.
  • Regulating, through permits or rules, activities that can affect surface water quality, including wastewater and stormwater discharges, subsurface sewage treatment ("septic") systems, and large feedlots.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency uses a watershed approach to protecting and restoring water quality This approach helps the agency better identify water quality problems, work with communities to establish shared goals and priorities, and develop effective pollutant-reduction strategies.